Tsukemono (漬物) or Japanese pickles are an essential part of the Japanese diet and typically with a meal, they are served along with rice and miso soup. Pickles are used as a garnish, relish, or digestive and also considered as a palate cleansing side dish or we call Hashi Yasume (箸休め), literally meaning “chopstick rest” in Japanese.
We eat pickles between dishes to change the flavors and textures of dishes and to refresh our palate. Besides pickles, Chawanmushi (steamed egg custard), Sunomono (a light salad made with sweet and sour vinaigrette), Aemono (vegetable, meat, or seafood dressed up in some sauce), and Suimono (soup) are also considered Hashi Yasume.
They are many types of pickles in Japan and the followings are some of the popular ones (picture I took of a Tsukemono shop in Kyoto’s Nishiki Market) .
Salt (shiozuke 塩漬け)
The simplest and most common types of pickles with the crisp texture and mild flavor of fresh vegetables. Pickled Japanese plums (umeboshi) used in onigiri (rice ball) are one example of shiozuke.
Rice Bran (nukazuke 糠漬け)
Whole vegetables are fermented in a mixture of roasted rice bran (the hard outer skin of rice that is removed when polishing the rice grain), salt, kombu, and other ingredients for anywhere from a day to several months. The pickles are crisp, salty and tangy.
Sake Lees (kasuzuke 粕漬け)
Pickles preserved in a mixture of sake lees (the yeast mash that is left over after filtering sake), salt, sugar and mirin ranging from several days to several years. The pickles have the strong alcohol flavor and smell especially when it’s pickled for a long time.
Soy Sauce (shoyuzuke 醤油漬け)
Pickles are preserved in soy sauce based marinade and has various flavors. Some are light color and crispy texture while others are dark color with salty and sweet taste. Fukujinzuke (relishes served with Japanese curry) is one example of shoyuzuke.
Vinegar (suzuke 酢漬け)
Pickles brined in rice vinegar resulting in a crunchy texture and sweet and sour flavor.
Miso (misozuke 味噌漬け)
Similar to nukazuke method and uses similar vegetables like cucumbers, carrots and eggplant. Whole vegetables are covered with miso. The pickles has salty complex miso flavor with a crisp texture.
Today I want to share the easy pickles that you can make at home with ingredients you already have in the kitchen -salt and sugar (and preferably Japanese karashi mustard – but don’t worry if you don’t have it). There are so many ways to make Japanese pickles and this is just one recipe that my we enjoy regularly at our house.
If you don’t like cucumbers and want alternatives, you can replace cucumbers with napa cabbage, cabbage, carrot, celery, turnip (kabu in Japanese), and eggplant. Depends on the vegetable, adjust the pickling time to your preferred taste.
Now choose a vegetable and enjoy making pickles to serve with rice this week!
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- 2 tsp. (0.4 oz, 10 g) salt
- 3 Tbsp. (1.1 oz, 30 g) sugar
- ½ tsp. (0.1 oz, 4 g) Japanese karashi mustard (Optional)
- 3 Japanese or Persian cucumbers (9.2 oz, 261 g)
- 1 sealable zipper storage bag (gallon size)
- Combine salt, sugar, and Japanese karashi mustard in the sealable plastic storage bag and mix well together.
- Cut ½ inch off the ends of the cucumbers. Rub the ends together to get rid of bitter taste.
- Put the cucumbers in the bag and squeeze out the air, close the bag tightly. Rub the cucumbers well with mixture.
- Taste test your tsukemono to your preferred taste. When you reached to your liking, discard the liquid so you won't be pickling any further. If you like to pickle more, leave it in the bag and keep in the refrigerator for up to 2-3 days. When it’s ready, slice the cucumber and serve.
You can substitute with Chinese mustard powder or Colman’s English mustard which are made from a hot, yellow variety of mustard seed same as Japanese mustard.
Recipe by Namiko Chen of Just One Cookbook. All images and content on this site are copyright protected. Please do not use my images without my permission. If you’d like to share this recipe on your site, please re-write the recipe and link to this post as the original source. Thank you.