Did you know that there are more than ten ways to pickle vegetables if you do it the Japanese way? And that most of them can be easily done at home?
‘Tsukemono’ (漬け物 = ‘pickled things’) are essential side dishes in the Japanese cuisine. They are usually eaten on side, but sometimes as topping, i.e. in ‘ochazuke’ (お茶漬け), which is a kind of rice soup. They are not everyone’s cup of tea but are mostly enjoyed. Some are seasonal and some are even regional.
When it comes to pickling them, a popular way is to use salt. ’Shiozuke’ (塩漬け = salt pickles) was crucial in old times to preserve food for a long time.
High in natrium it is also pickled in soy sauce (醤油漬け ’shoyuzuke’), or ‘misozuke’ (味噌漬け) which would be pickled in miso paste.
Alcohol can be used to pickle, too, ’sakezuke’ (酒漬け), and alcohol-free ‘amazake’ (甘酒漬け amazakezuke) too!
When sake yeast is used, the pickles are called ‘kasuzuke’ (粕漬け = sake lees ).
Another very popular, but not easy way is ’nukazuke’ (糠漬け). For this, rice bran (’numa’ 糠) and a constant daily stirring is needed, to avoid the fermented mixture to get off.
You would not believe, but there is even a way to pickle vegetables and fish in mustard. The so-called ‘karashi zuke’ (芥子漬け) is the answer.
Gaining popularity recently, there are ’shio koji’(塩麹)pickles. ’Shio koji’ is a fermented mixture of salt, rice and safe mold.
And for those with a sweet tooth: there are even sugar pickles! One may wonder whether ’satozuke’ (砂糖漬け) is actually that sweet..
Last but not least: syrup pickles! (シロップ漬け)
Same as the most of Japanese food, Japanese pickles are meant to delight the stomach and the eye. So colourful arrangements and beautiful cuts of ’tsukemono’ are necessary to live up to the high demand of a perfectly matched dish.