I had received several requests from some of the readers that they would like to make Tsukemono, Japanese pickles. In Japan, Tsukemono is always served with steamed rice, and considered as an important garnish or accompaniment for meals. There are even Tsukemono specialty stores in Japan, where we can buy all different types and varieties.
Although we call it “pickles”, Japanese pickles are actually considered “preserved vegetables”. Unlike how American pickles are prepared, Tsukemono is not pickled in distilled vinegar. For pickling the Japanese way, we use salt, soy sauce, miso, rice bran (nuka), or sake lees (sake kasu).
Today I’m sharing Asazuke, a type of Tsukemono. Asazuke literary means ‘shallow pickling’ for its short period of pickling time. Asazuke is commonly prepared at home because it’s easier and simple to make as opposed to Tsukemono, which takes more effort to prepare and longer waiting period.
I used Tokyo turnips called kabu as the main vegetable, but other commonly used vegetables for Tsukemono include cucumbers, daikon (Japanese radish), napa cabbage, and eggplant. This recipe calls for yuzu, a citrus fruit widely available in Japan, Korea, and China. If you cannot find yuzu in your area, you can substitute with lemon zest/juice for this recipe. There are quite a lot of Japanese dishes with yuzu flavor and one of our favorite Japanese restaurant use it on a few of the special sushi they serve. I hope you enjoy making this version of Asazuke at home!
- 3 Tokyo Turnips (kabu), roots, stem, and leaves (or you can use cucumbers, daikon (Japanese radish), napa cabbage, and eggplant)
- 1 (1.5 inch x 1.5 inch) square kombu (kelp)
- 1/2 of a red chili pepper
- 1 tsp. yuzu zest or freezer dried yuzu (see photo below)
- 1/2 - 1 tsp. salt
- 1 Tbsp. yuzu juice/yuzu extract, or lemon (optional)
- Wash turnips carefully and separate roots and stem/leaves. Peel the skin of roots and cut in half or quarters. Slice thinly. For stem/leaves, cut into 1/2 inch pieces.
- Cut kombu into small strips.
- Cut red chili pepper into half and remove seeds. Keep the seeds if you like it spicy.
- In a Ziploc bag, add turnip roots, stem/leaves, kombu, red chili pepper, yuzu zest, salt (and yuzu juice/extract). Mix and rub with hands well.
- Remove air and keep in the fridge for at least an hour, preferably 3-4 hours, or even overnight before serving.
- When you serve, drain any excess liquid by squeezing the vegetables with both hands.