In Japanese, pickled foods are known as “tsukemono.”
Sometimes, they are referred to as “hashi-yasume” (“chopstick resters”), in that they provide a reason to set down your chop sticks from time to time, and taste something else with a very different flavour and texture.
Usually, it is vegetables that are pickled, but some fruits such as plums are also popular to pickle and occasionally, meat, eggs and fish.
The different types of pickling used in Japanese cooking include:
- Salting (shiozuke) : packed in layers of salt, then pressed to create a brine which does the pickling;
- Rice Bran pickling (nukazuke) : cured in a mixture of the bran from roasted rice, salt, and konbu;
- Sake Lees (kasuzuke) : pickled in the mash that is left over after making sake;
- Soy Sauce (shoyuzuke) : pickled in soy sauce;
- Vinegar (suzuke): pickled in vinegar, usually rice vinegar;
- Miso (misozuke): pickled in miso.
Many of the techniques are what Western cooks would call “instant pickles”, with light curing, designed more to provide taste and texture rather than long-term preservation, and so should be used up within a few days.
Many tsukemono are very easy to make at home, and consequently many cooks do, but they can also be bought in stores.
Itoh, Makiko. Introduction to quick Japanese tsukemono (pickles). justhungry.com. 19 March 2007. Retrieved November 2012 from http://justhungry.com/introduction-quick-japanese-tsukemono-pickles
Japanese Pickles (Tsukemono). Retrieved November 2012 from http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2349.html
Vallen, Mark. Japanese Pickle Recipes. Retrieved November 2012 from http://www.theblackmoon.com/Jfood/ftsuke.html