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.
Wish to learn more about Japanese cooking? Sign up for our free newsletter to receive cooking tips & recipe updates! And stay in touch with me on Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube, and Instagram.
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)
- 1 dried red chili pepper
- 1 piece kombu (dried kelp) (1" x 3", 2.5 x 7.6 cm)
- 2 tsp kosher salt (Diamond Crystal; use half for table salt) (salt should be 2% of the vegetables’ weight; vegetable weight x 0.02)
- Gather all the ingredients.
- Discard the cabbage core and cut cabbage into 1-2” (2.5 x 5 cm) 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. When handling the seeds, avoid touching with your bare hands/fingers.
- 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 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 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.