Literally translating to “pickled things,” tsukemono are Japanese pickles that give a refreshing flavor hit to cleanse the palate. Also used as a garnish, condiment, side dish, or digestive, tsukemono is the overarching word for pickles, commonly served as “okazu” (small side dishes) to accompany most Japanese cuisines, or eaten as an “otsumami” (snack) when drinking. A traditional meal of rice and miso soup typically comes with a side of pickled vegetables. Tsukemono originated long before the days of refrigeration, so that perishable vegetables could keep for longer. Preserved in salt, brine, or a bed of rice bran, pickles can also be made from miso, soy sauce, and more, using vegetables like cabbage, cucumber, daikon radish, and even seaweed.
Characteristically crunchy and made from all sorts of vegetables, tsukemono pop with color and different flavors. Each prefecture sports its own specialty, and tsukemono often features as its own course during luxurious kaiseki banquets. Sour “umeboshi” (pickled plums) are divisive, but arguably addictive, while bright yellow “takuan” (made from radish) and “beni shoga” (pickled ginger, often served with gyudon or yakisoba) are quite common. Nara’s own “narazuke” pickles are vegetables marinated in sake lees, while Kyoto is also known for its high-quality vegetable harvests yielding delicious local pickles. Join a dining experience with us to taste different types of tsukemono, or enjoy them as a side dish during a food tour or cooking class. A small but integral part of dining in Japan, get your tsukemono fresh and zingy.