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A strange and wonderful thing occurs when you pickle celery: it wilts and becomes floppy yet still retains a certain crunch.
That is what I love about this recipe – and, of course, the chilli just gives it the kick that it needs!
Add some Sichuan pepper and salt at the end and you have a very simple, yet extremely sophisticated side dish on your hands.
Trim celery sticks and finely slice on the diagonal.
Combine in a bowl with sugar and salt, mix well and leave to stand for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine vinegar and extra sugar in a small heavy-based saucepan and stir over heat until sugar dissolves.
Simmer, uncovered and without stirring, for about 2 minutes, or until reduced by one-third and slightly syrupy – you should have about ¼ cup.
Set aside to cool slightly.
Drain celery and, using your hands, gently squeeze away any excess liquid.
Add cooled vinegar syrup and remaining ingredients, except Sichuan pepper and salt, to pickled celery and transfer to a serving bowl.
Sprinkle with Sichuan pepper and salt and serve.
Note: This dish should be served on the day of making.
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