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Lightly Cured Pickles (Tsukemono)

Lightly Cured Pickles (Tsukemono)

Learn how to make lightly cured Japanese pickles with this traditional recipe from Atsushi Nakahigashi's class. This pickling method preserves the true character of vegetables and is great with a variety of ingredients. Try it with radish, turnips, daikon, cabbage, carrot, broccoli stems, or Japanese cucumber.

I've never been totally comfortable with the word "pickles" which, in America at least, conjures a fat, heavily vinegared, emerald-green Vlasic. The Japanese version is a totally different animal -- err, I mean vegetable -- lightly cured so the intrinsic character of the ingredient being pickled is never lost. There are a number of Japanese pickling methods. This one is great with a slew of vegetables, like red radish, turnips, daikon skin, daikon, cabbage, carrot, broccoli stems, and Japanese cucumber. Here's the technique:

1/2 cup vegetables, thinly sliced
1/2 tablespoon salt
1/2 cup dashi
1 teaspoon usukuchi soy sauce
3 teaspoons rice vinegar
1 pinch sugar
1 Japanese dried red chili, seeds removed

  1. Combine the vegetables and salt in a bowl. Mix with your hands for about 2 minutes, squeezing the vegetables to release their bitterness. You'll see a brown liquid in the bowl, that's the bitter flavor of the vegetables. Let the vegetables sit for 10 minutes at room temperature.
  2. Rinse and squeeze the vegetables. Repeat until they taste just they taste a bit saltier than you think food should taste (if that makes sense!)
  3. Add the dashi, soy sauce, vinegar, sugar and chili. Transfer the contents of the mixing bowl -- vegetables and liquid together -- to a zip-lock bag. Seal the bag and squeeze the vegetables inside for about 30 seconds.
  4. Let the vegetables cure inside the bag in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes, or (better) overnight