February 17, 2016

The Japanese Food Guide: Pickles / Tsukemono

By Stuart Turner

What are Japanese Pickles?

The word Tsukemono literally translates to 'pickled things' in Japanese. Pickles are a popular accompaniment to dishes in Japan; sometimes they are served as a main dish on a bed of rice, or placed in the centre of rice balls, other times they are served alone as a snack with a cold beer! 

You're probably most familiar with pickled ginger, which is often bright pink and placed on top of ramen or katsu curry in British Japanese restaurants. 

How are Japanese Pickles made?

Pickles can easily be bought ready prepared, saving you a lot of time and effort, as the process of making them is quite long and requires specialist equipment. If you want to make pickles at home, simply select a vegetable or fruit (cucumber, ginger, radish and plums are traditional.), and soak them in a brine. There are many different brines you can use - often just salt is used, but you can also make pickles using soy sauce, sugar and vinegar or miso for example.

The pickles are then stored in a container and a weight is used to press them down. The Japanese use a piece of equipment called a Tsukemonoki, which is a container with stones that press down the pickles. 

Another option is to make fresh pickles which are lightly marinated in brine and called Asazuke.

What Types of Japanese Pickle are there?

  • Umeboshi - Pickled Ume Plums
  • Takuan - Pickled Daikon
  • Beni Shoga - Pickled red ginger
  • Gari - The thinly sliced pickled ginger you eat with sushi.
  • Rakkyozuke - Thinly sliced pickled mild onions which are often served with curries.
  • Fukujinzuke - A mix of pickled daikon, lotus root, aubergine and cucumber, which is also flavoured with soy sauce.

These are just some of the most popular pickles, but it's easy to come up with your own!


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