It is said that in Japan there are four thousand different kinds of tsukemono and over one hundred different techniques for making them. ~ Donald Richie
In Japan, one eats tsukemono – Japanese pickles – during every meal, before meals as an appetizer, between meals as a snack. Between bites to clear the palate for other foods.
So it makes perfect sense that you can find pickled versions of virtually every kind of food in Japanese cuisine including fish, seeds, eggs, fruit, vegetables. And cherry blossoms!
However, pickled vegetables remain the kind of tsukemono most often consumed today just as years ago when they were the only vegetables available to Japanese country and mountain dwellers in the wintertime.
Carrots, turnips, nasu (eggplant), and kyuri (cucumber), are some of the many vegetables used for tsukemono. Daikon is one of of the crispest and spiciest of these. And it has many health benefits:
HEALTH BENEFITS OF DAIKON
- low in calories, only 25 calories in a cupful
- rich in vitamin C, potassium, and fiber.
- high in fat-digesting enzymes
The fact that daikon tastes good and is good for me is what prompted me to whip up some tsukemono at home last week.
I prepared two kinds of daikon tsukemono, one seasoned with chili pepper and the other pickled in a solution made with sake. Both turned out incredibly crunchy. (Tsukemono in pickling solution can remain crisp for over a year.)
However, only the batch of pickles made with chili pepper has kept me diving back into the jar for “just one more.” The refreshing balance of sweet and spicy makes it my “favorite” – the winner of the Tsukemono Standoff.
Some days ago, I actually threw out the remaining sake solution and transferred those pickles to the jar with the “winning” tsukemono, so there are still several delicious chili-peppered tsukemono left for me to eat. But they are going fast.
You’ll find the recipe for the winning daikon tsukemono at Kitazawa Seed Company. Just two notes here:
1) The directions do not specify a specific amount of chili pepper to use so you are free to add whatever amount suits your taste, I used a quarter cup; and
2) DON’T HATE IT, JUST BECAUSE IT’S NOT BEAUTIFUL
The change in the daikon‘s appearance during the pickling process startled me at first. The vegetable began to curve and took on a mottled texture. Maybe it’s all the sci-fi movies I watch, but I wondered what was really growing in my Goya jar. Now that the process is complete and I’m happily eating the pickles, I can assure you that when you see these strange things happening, all is well.
You can make your daikon tsukemono look more appetizing by adding turmeric or yellow food coloring, as do many Japanese. I added a spoonful of curry instead of turmeric for better color and taste.
Still on the bench about daikon? It tastes great prepared in many other ways besides pickled, including salads, spring rolls, stir-fry. Plus, it complements the flavor and color of a variety of dishes that are not necessarily Japanese in origin.
Inexpensive, versatile, and delicious, daikon is worth considering the next time you go grocery shopping.
How important is it that the food you eat look a certain way? Would you pass up something that might taste good because it looks strange?