– quick pickled vegetables
Recipe and Article by Kanako Koizumi
Tsukemono (pickled vegetables) is the quintessential food in Japanese cuisine, particularly in traditional meals with rice and miso soup. I often hear the conversation between Japanese people go, ”What would be your last meal?” “Oh, it’s got to be plain rice and tsukemono!” In my hometown Akita, known as a tsukemono country, it was also served as Ochazuke (afternoon snacks accompanying Japanese teas).
There are tens of thousands of tsukemono varieties and recipes throughout the country. Many of them are fermented for weeks and months (sometimes years). Typical vegetables for pickling include daikon, eggplant, cucumber, carrot, turnip and so on, and they are pickled with salt, occasionally vinegar and/or koji (rice mold), miso, soy sauce and other seasoning ingredients. Those pickles can be labor intensive and time consuming to make at home.
Another type of tsukemono is called “Asazuke”. Simple to make, no fermentation required, and it can be ready overnight to several days. The flavors are lighter than fermented tsukemono, so you can almost enjoy them like a salad. Here I want to share two of the most popular asazuke recipes in my Japanese homecooking classes – Kyuri Karashi Zuke and Hakusai Ichiya Zuke. They are quick and easy to make and delicious. I hear students come back and tell me that they love them and make them many times. Have them become your favorites too!
Hakusai Ichiya Zuke
– Napa Pickles with Citrus
Serves 6 – 8 | Preparation time 10 minutes
Pickling time: : 24 to 36 hours
- ½ napa cabbage, cut into one-inch pieces
- 1 small to medium-size carrot, julienned
- 2 Persian or ½ English cucumber, sliced into rounds
- 1 oz. (1/4 inch) fresh ginger, julienned (optional)
- 2×2 inch kombu kelp
- 1 Tbsp. yuzu or ½ tbsp. fresh lemon juice
- 2 to 3 tsp (or more if needed) sea salt
① Combine napa, carrot and cucumber, and give a good rinse under running water and strain well.
② Put all the vegetables, kombu, citrus juice, if using, and 2 tsp. salt in a re-sealable plastic bag (ex. Ziploc) and combine all the ingredients well. Seal the bag squeezing air out.
③ Refrigerate the bag for 24 to 36 hours. If possible open the bag once a day and give it a stir.
④ Taste and add another tsp. salt as needed and reseal. You will see a good amount of water coming out of the vegetables.
⑤ Taste the asazuke for the last time and add more salt to taste if needed. Squeeze the water out and serve.
Kyuri Karashi Zuke
– Cucumber Pickles in Japanese Mustard
Serves 6 – 8 | Preparation time 5 minutes
Pickling time: 36 to 48 hours (you can pickle up to 1 week)
- 2 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp granulated sugar
- 1 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 2 tsp Japanese mustard powder (You can substitute Chinese or English mustard)
- 4-5 Persian cucumbers (or 3-4 Japanese cucumbers. American or English cucumber is not ideal for this recipe)
① Combine all the dry ingredients in a resealable plastic bag (e.g. Ziploc). Add cucumbers and seal the bag. Refrigerate for 36 to 48 hours. Massage the bag once a day, if possible, so that the cucumbers are coated evenly in the brine.
② When you see all the water drained from the cucumber, it’s done. Give a quick rinse and pat the cucumber dry with a paper towel. Discard the brine. Slice and serve. Store the pickles in the fridge up to one week.