I’m back from my trip to the not-so-frozen East coast and have one more afternoon of relaxation before work begins anew. To cleanse my overstimulated mind of the past week’s wildness I’ve decided to spend the day puttering around the kitchen performing my favourite Zen tasks: Simmering stock, baking bread and making pickles.
The oldschool Japanese art of making pickles (tsukemono) was first taught to me by chef Hiro, who would make one or two batches of variously-preserved vegetables each week for the restaurant. They were usually simple to prepare and quick to get into the game (never taking more than 2-3 days to fully pickle) and always showcased the natural flavour of the vegetable. All that was needed to make ‘em was a container, salt, and something to apply pressure on top.
I’ve been fooling around with these kinds of pickles in my home kitchen for years now, packing Ziplocks with radish ends or bits of cabbage whenever I’ve got some left over from prepping a meal. One of my favourite recipes uses half or quarter daikon radish (because, let’s be honest, no-one uses a whole daikon for anything) and submerges it in a mixture of soy sauce and aromatics. The resulting pickles are snappy ‘n salty with a nice funk that goes really well with rice or a night of beer drinking.
This recipe is straight out of Ikuko Hisamatsu’s stellar book on Tsukemono which I highly recommend to anyone interested in making killer Japanese-style pickles. Don’t worry fellow Gaijins, it’s translated into English and has tons of pictures for each recipe.
Soy-Pickled Daikon Radish (Fills 1 Small Mason Jar)
- 1 1/3 lbs. (600g) Daikon Radish (Sliced lengthwise, then sliced again into small half-moons)
- 1 ½ Tsp. (9g) Salt
- 1 thumb-sized piece of dried Kombu
- 1 thumb-sized piece of Lemon rind
- ½ a dried Thai Chilli Pepper (split, seeds removed)
- ¼ cup (60ml) Soy Sauce
- 1 Tbls. (15ml) Sake
- 1 Tbls. (15ml) Mirin
- Toss the sliced Daikon pieces in salt and set aside on a bamboo or wire rack to soften for 1 hour. You’ll want to have a bowl under the rack to catch any excess liquid that is released. Once the daikon can be bent in half without breaking it’s ready to be lightly rinsed, drained and pickled.
- Place the daikon, kombu, lemon and chilli pepper in a medium-sized, non-metal bowl. Mix the soy sauce, sake and mirin together and pour in, give it a stir and cover with plastic wrap. Take a plate small enough to fit inside the bowl, not over it and push down the daikon until it’s all submerged in liquid. Pop the bowl with the plate in it into the fridge overnight with something heavy on top of the plate to keep the pressure on.
- Scoop the daikon out of the soy mixture and discard the kombu, lemon and pepper. After only one night the daikon will be ready to snack on, but if packed into a small mason jar without the liquid it will mature into an even tastier snack in a couple more days.
Music To Make Pickles To:
Vacationer – Gone