Instant Japanese Style Cucumber Pickles


This is based on a recipe I found on the Just Hungry blog for Instant Tsukemono (Japanese Pickling) Seasoning Mix.

  • 3 asian cucumbers (or 1-2 long english cucumbers, seeded, or 2 slicing cucumbers, peeled & seeded)
  • fresh ginger root (approx 1 tbsp shredded)
  • fresh lemon juice (about 1 tsp to 1 tbsp)
  • sea salt (a pinch or two, to taste)
  • fresh green shiso leaf, chopped fine (I used 6 medium sized leaves)
  • toasted sesame seeds (I used about 1-2 tbsp)

Cut cucumbers into quarters lengthwise. The asian cucumbers I used are approximately 3/4 to 1 inch diameter. If you’re using larger-diameter cucumbers, cut into sixths or eighths. Cut diagonally into 1/8 inch slices.

Add shredded ginger. You can manually cut into matchsticks, or use a cheese grater. I used a benriner mandoline. (Time-saving tip: just shred a couple of chunks of ginger all at once. If using within a few days, save in your container of choice. If saving for longterm use, put in a plastic zip top bag, expel most of the air, flatten the mass of shredded ginger then score into 16 squares with a chopstick. Freeze, then just break off as many squares as you need for your recipe.)

Finely chop the shiso leaves. If you don’t have fresh shiso leaves, you can use yukari gohan mix but reduce the salt in the recipe. If you don’t have access to shiso _anything_, use another aromatic herb. Just note that it won’t taste as “Japanese”. Keffir lime, basil (Italian or Thai), mint all work well.

Add the salt and sesame seeds, mix well. Adjust seasonings to taste.

You can eat it immediately, or you can let it sit for awhile to let the flavours mingle.

Other options:

This isn’t really a pickle as much as it’s a savory salad. It works well with substitutions. The basic idea is a carrier vegetable, something salty, something sour, one or two aromatics, and optionally something sweet. I also usually add kombu (kelp) powder for umami, and sometimes a bit of honey. Adjust proportions of the seasonings depending which flavours you want to dominate. Here are some ideas for alternate versions:

  • Other vegetables: substitute in zucchini, grated carrot or beet, red bell pepper instead of the cucumbers
  • Other flavours: oregano or basil (or both) & zucchini, black pepper, cracked mustard seeds, crumbled feta instead of salt, vinegars or lime juice instead of lemon. Tom yum paste. Tumeric and/or cardamon. Honey. Remove sesame from most of these.

If you want to avoid the liquid that gets drawn out of veggies by the salt, cut them down to size and then sprinkle with salt. Mix well and let sit in the fridge for 1-3 hours. This will draw out the water. Drain and rinse well, then drain again. Mix in the other ingredients; you may have to adjust the salt in the final recipe.