Brined in salt, kombu and chili flakes, this palate-cleansing Pickled Cabbage (tsukemono) makes a perfect accompaniment to a traditional Japanese meal.
When we eat Washoku (和食), a traditional Japanese meal with rice and miso soup, we almost always serve a small dish of Japanese pickles called Tsukemono (漬物).
Watch How To Make Tsukemono (Pickled Cabbage) キャベツの浅漬けの作り方
Delicious and crispy homemade pickled cabbage enjoyed with traditional Japanese meal, brined in salt, kombu strips and chili flakes.
Tsukemono (漬物, literally translates to “pickled things”) are Japanese preserved vegetables that are usually pickled in salt, brine or a bed of rice bran called nuka.
During a meal, Tsukemono cleanses the palate and provides refreshment to counter the other flavorful dishes. It also offers color, texture and fragrance to a meal. In fact, it is sometimes also called konomono (Kho no mono, 香の物) or “fragrant things”.
Introducing “Asazuke” A Quick Tsukemono
In Japan, all types of tsukemono are available at grocery stores and specialty stores; however many people make Asazuke (浅漬け) at home, which is “quick pickling”. I serve this type of tsukemono with steamed rice and miso soup for my traditional Japanese meals.
Among the different types of Asazuke, shio-zuke (塩漬け) or salt pickles is one of the easiest pickles to make. With shio-zuke, vegetables are salted first, then heavy object is placed upon vegetables. The pressure causes the vegetables to release liquids, and the vegetables are pickled in the brine. Making shio-zuke usually requires just a few hours; therefore it’s a popular pickles for home cooks.
Keep in mind that asazuke typically needs to be consumed within 2-3 days as it’s pickled in very small amount of salt that’s not enough to keep it for a longer time without spoiling.
What can I make into Tsukemono?
There are quite a bit of ingredient options for making tsukemono. I personally like using vegetables like cabbage, napa cabbage, cucumbers, eggplants, daikon radish, turnips, gobo (burdock root), carrots, ginger and more. What I recommend is pickle 1 to 2 ingredients at a time. When I make my own vegetable tsukemono, I know it’s fresh and absolutely love the crispy texture!
How much salt to add?
My general rule of thumb for Asazuke is to add 2% of salt to the weight of vegetables. To make the calculation easy, remember 1 tsp. of salt is about 5 grams. That means you will need about 250 grams (1/2 lb) of vegetables. In case you don’t own a kitchen scale (I recommend to get a scale at home – a decent one is like $10-15.), it’s roughly the weight of ½ small cabbage. Of course each cabbage size is different, so I encourage you to find the weight of vegetables that you buy for this recipe.
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- ½ (10 oz, 280 g) cabbage
- ½ (2 oz, 50 g) Japanese cucumber
- 1 red chili pepper
- 1” x 3” (2.5x7.6 cm) kombu
- 1 ¼ tsp. kosher salt
- Discard the cabbage core and cut cabbage into 1-2” pieces.
- Cut cucumber in in half and peel. Then cut in half lengthwise and into thin slices diagonally.
- Remove seeds from the red chili (if you prefer less spicy) and cut into rounds.
- Toast kombu over open flame so that the kombu will become tender and easier to cut into thin strips.
- Put all the ingredients in the airtight plastic bag and add 1 ¼ tsp. kosher salt.
- Rub with hands until the cabbage softens. Remove the air and close the plastic bag tightly.
- Place the bag under the heavy object and let it pickled in a cool place or in the fridge for 2-3 hours.
- Once the cabbage is pickled, take out and squeeze the excess liquid out. You can save it in the refrigerator up to 1-2 days.
- Sprinkle white sesame seeds and drizzle a little bit of soy sauce.