Brined in salt, kombu, and chili flakes, this palate-cleansing Japanese Pickled Cabbage makes a perfect accompaniment to a traditional Japanese meal. It’s quick and easy to make!
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). Today I’m sharing a quick and easy Japanese Pickled Cabbage (キャベツの浅漬け).
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 refreshments to counter the other flavorful dishes. It also offers color, texture, and fragrance to a meal. In fact, it is sometimes also called Kounomono (Kho no mono, 香の物) or “fragrant things”.
“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 the heavy object is placed upon the 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 pickle for home cooks.
Keep in mind that Asazuke typically needs to be consumed within 2-3 days as it’s pickled in a 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 to 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 that salt should be 2 to 2.5% of the vegetable’s weight. It’s easy to calculate when you have a kitchen scale (I like this kitchen scale).
If you use Diamond Crystal kosher salt, 1 tablespoon is about 10 grams and 1 teaspoon is 3 grams.
Japanese Pickled Cabbage
For the Vegetables
- ½ head green cabbage (9.9 oz, 280 g)
- ½ Japanese or Persian cucumber (1.8 oz, 50 g)
- Gather all the ingredients.
- Discard the core of ½ head green cabbage and cut the cabbage into 1- to 2-inch (2.5- x 5-cm) pieces.
- Cut ½ Japanese or Persian cucumber in half and peel. Cut in half lengthwise then into thin slices diagonally.
- Remove seeds from 1 dried red chili pepper (if you prefer less spicy) and cut into rounds. When handling the seeds, avoid touching with your bare hands/fingers.
- Toast 1 piece kombu (dried kelp) over open flame so that the kombu will become tender. Then, cut it into thin strips.
- Put the cabbage, cucumber, chili pepper, and kombu in an airtight plastic bag and add 2 tsp Diamond Crystal 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 it out and squeeze the excess liquid out.
- Sprinkle toasted white sesame seeds and drizzle a little bit of soy sauce.
- You can keep the leftovers in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to 2–3 days.