These savory-and-sweet Japanese Pickled Cucumbers on a Stick (Kyuri Asazuke) are the perfect summertime on-a-stick food! Cooling and refreshingly delicious, they are a popular street snack found at summer festivals in Japan. Serve these easy yet cool treats at your bbq cookouts or parties!
If you’re looking to try out pickling, and Japanese pickling in particular, I have a fun and super simple recipe for you to try out! Today’s recipe—Pickled Cucumber on a Stick—is going to turn your abundant summer produce into something inherently crisp, tangy, cooling, flavorful, and exciting to eat!
I love that they bring the reminiscence of Japanese summertime closer to home. The best part? It involves only a few basic ingredients, 10 mins prep time, and a relatively quick pickling time in the fridge. Just the perfect thing to make and enjoy.
Table of Contents
What’s a Japanese Cucumber on a Stick?
You might have seen these slender Japanese cucumbers on a wooden chopstick sold at Japanese summer festivals. Japanese people love munching on this healthy snack while browsing street vendors and scouting what to eat next. These cucumbers definitely have a nostalgic aspect as much as those colorful shaved ice and street-style yakisoba. The summer cucumbers are extra juicy and delicious, plus they are plentiful and economical when they are in season.
These pickled cucumbers on a stick are considered a type of asazuke, which refers to quick pickles that take just a few hours. The resulting produce(s) tend to have a fresher taste and crispier texture.
Cucumbers on a stick sold at street vendors usually use commercial-size asazuke pickling solution and let it pickle overnight. It tastes great but you definitely don’t need additives and preservatives that go in there.
In this post, I shared a few variations of the pickling solutions, so I hope you try them out and see what you like most. Feel free to customize if needed.
How to Make Japanese Cucumber on a Stick
The Ingredients and Substitutions
- Japanese cucumbers – If you can’t find Japanese cucumbers, use Persian cucumbers instead. American or English cucumbers with more seeds in the middle are not ideal.
- Seasonings – kombu (dried kelp), salt, rice vinegar, sugar, soy sauce (optional), and dried red chili (optional)
- Keep it simple with salt by skipping soy sauce. This is my favorite version.
- Swap soy sauce with miso.
- Use julienned ginger strips or crushed garlic.
The Cooking Steps
- Heat the ingredients for the pickling solution until the sugar melts completely. Let it cool completely before transferring it to a resealable plastic bag (or container).
- Peel the cucumbers to create a stripe pattern. This not only gives a more attractive look but it helps absorb more pickling solutions. Then, sprinkle salt and give a gentle massage. Salt draws out moisture from the cucumber, which helps absorb more pickling solutions. Set aside for 5 minutes.
- Quickly rinse the cucumbers and pat dry. Then transfer the cucumbers to the plastic bag.
- Keep it chilled in the refrigerator for several hours or up to 8 hours, flipping the cucumbers halfway through.
- Insert a chopstick into the center of each cucumber, leaving 2-3 inches outside. Serve it really chilled.
- The pickling solution may seem little to start, but the cucumber will continue to release moisture which will dilute the solutions.
- If you plan to pickle overnight (more flavor), adjust the salt or soy sauce (or miso, if you are swapping) because it could potentially get salty.
- Insert chopsticks right before serving. Over time, the chopstick gets loose as the cucumber releases more moisture.
Once you finish pickling, take out the cucumbers and refrigerate them for up to 2 days. Do not keep them in the pickling solution as they get too salty.
What to Serve with Kyuri Asazuke
I love enjoying these cucumbers on a stick as a healthy snack, but they also make a wonderful accompaniment to a Japanese or Asian meal. I imagine them being a popular appetizer at a BBQ cookout or parties too!
Here are more ideas on how I’d serve them with:
- Rice – Japanese Rice Ball (Onigiri), Grilled Onigiri (Yaki Onigiri), and Miso Yaki Onigiri.
- Main – Yakitori, Yakitori-style Grilled Vegetable, and Tsukune (Japanese Meatballs).
- Salad – Soba Noodle Salad, Japanese Potato Salad, and Macaroni Salad.
- Sides – 15 Easy Japanese Side Dishes.
More Easy Japanese Pickles to Make at Home
- Sunomono (Japanese Cucumber Salad)
- Pickled Daikon
- Sweet Vinegar Pickled Carrots and Daikon
- Pickled Tomatoes
Japanese Pickled Cucumber on a Stick
For the Pickling Solution
- Gather all the ingredients. Remember that soy sauce here is optional and up to your liking. I prefer a simple salt flavor while Mr. JOC likes soy sauce one.
To Make the Pickling Solution
- Cut 1 piece kombu (dried kelp) into strips about ¼ inch (6 mm) wide. Discard the seeds from 1 dried red chili pepper and cut into thin rounds. Tip: If you‘d like to make a spicy version, keep the seeds.
- In a small saucepan, add 1 Tbsp rice vinegar (unseasoned), 1 Tbsp sugar, 2 tsp soy sauce, and 2 tsp Diamond Crystal kosher salt.
- Add ⅓ cup water, the kombu strips, and the chili pepper slices. Turn on the heat to medium.
- Mix the pickling solution and let the sugar dissolve completely. Then, turn off the heat and set aside to cool.
To Prepare the Cucumbers
- Peel 4 Japanese or Persian cucumbers to create a striped pattern. Cut off both ends. (Here, I use really long cucumbers, so I cut them in half.)
- Sprinkle with 1 tsp Diamond Crystal kosher salt and rub the cucumbers with your hands. Set aside for 5 minutes.
- Quickly rinse off the salt and pat dry with a clean towel or paper towel.
To Pickle the Cucumbers
- Pour the cooled pickling solution into a resealable plastic bag. Add the cucumbers to the bag. Let them lightly pickled for 5–6 hours in the refrigerator. Tip: If you will not be around to take out the cucumbers after 5–6 hours (or prefer to pickle overnight), consider diluting the solution with water or reducing the salt to keep the cucumbers from becoming too salty.
- Remove from the plastic bag and skewer each cucumber onto a wooden chopstick. Insert the chopstick gently along the center of the cucumber and hold the cucumber straight so the chopstick doesn‘t poke out from the side. Tip: Skewer the cucumbers right before serving. You don‘t want to keep the chopstick inside the cucumber for too long as it will draw out the moisture and the cucumber will become loose.
- Serve the Cucumbers on a Stick over ice cubes. They are delicious when they are well chilled!
- Keep the cucumbers in an airtight container and store them in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Do not store them in the pickling solution. Insert a chopstick just prior to serving.