From Korean kimchi to Chinese tientsin to Japanese tsukemono, preserved vegetables add just enough unctuousness to accentuate just about any Asian dish.
Japanese pickles, collectively known as tsukemono, have such importance in Japanese cuisine. It’s been even said that you can build a Japanese meal around three items. First item is of course rice, as the main staple. Second one is soup, as fuel for the soul. Then, last but not least, tsukemono. It balances and frames the flavors of the other foods with their tart, umami-rich, savory essence.
Although you can pickle vegetables using regular distilled vinegar, Japanese pickles call for rice vinegar. Rice vinegar has five-percent acetic acid. As a result, it lends the final dish a sweet, mild almost sweet quality.
Tsukemono are elegantly simple, and simple to make. Tsukemono pickles use a quick-pickling process, as opposed to slowly fermented, canned pickles. In addition to being a popular choice for bento boxes or picnic, tsukemono serves as embellishments to an array of preparations — curried rice topped with fukujinzuke, a pickled melange of eggplant, daikon, cucumber and lotus root; rice topped with beni shōga, or red pickled ginger; and gari, which is the brined, thinly sliced ginger that commonly accompanies sushi.
Popular Vinegar Based Pickling Recipe
You find hundreds of varieties of tsukemono in Japanese cuisine — if it’s a vegetable, you can pickle it — but one of the most common, and most prevalent, are those made with daikon radish. Most of all,daikon tsukemono takes minutes to make. It incorporates a combination of rice vinegar and pickling salt to initiate the fermentation process.
You can serve daikon tsukemono straight away after preparing them or let them sit in the pickling liquid for up to three days or longer for a stronger, bolder taste. Since daikon tsukemono don’t undergo the long-term preservation other types of tsukemono do, they have a shelf life of about one week.
Tsukemono: Daikon Radish
Recipe presented by Jay Andrews
- Scrub the daikon. Trim away the leafy green portion on top. Peel away any discolored portions of the skin.
- Slice the daikon into short batonettes (essentially 2-inch-long French-fry-sized pieces). Place the daikon into a glass jar and set aside.
- Heat the sugar and vinegar on the stove over low heat until the sugar dissolves. Remove the sugar-vinegar mixture from the heat and set aside to cool. Add the mixture to a glass jar.
Next, add the pickling salt, kombu, sake and red chili peppers to the sugar-vinegar mixture. Close the jar and shake well.
- Add the daikon to the jar and let stand for 15 minutes. If desired, chill the tsukemono in the refrigerator until cold.