Traditionally in Japanese cuisine, whenever rice is served it is accompanied by a small plate of pickles known as tsukemono. Tsukemono is often served along with steamed rice, donburi (a rice bowl dish), a Japanese meal, or bento and can either be made of pickled vegetables or fruit. When made with cucumbers, this tsukemono is referred to as shoyuzuke kyuri.
The procedure for cooking this specific tsukemono recipe differs from western-style pickling in that the cucumbers are simply steeped in the cooked soy-vinegar marinade but not actually cooked themselves, nor stored in sterilized jars. For this reason, this tsukemono recipe will keep in the refrigerator similarly to any perishable food.
Combine all of the ingredients except for the cucumbers in a small pot and simmer over medium heat until sugar is dissolved. Allow the mixture to cool.
Roughly chop cucumbers into medium pieces. Transfer the cucumbers into a large storage container with a lid.
Pour the soy-vinegar mixture over the cucumbers and cover the container. Refrigerate and allow the cucumbers to marinate for 8 hours to 1 day. (For best flavor, marinate for 2 days.) Turn cucumbers in the marinade periodically to season them evenly.
Store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
- The longer the cucumbers marinate in the soy-vinegar mixture, the bolder the flavor becomes, so be sure not to skimp on the pickling time.
- Tsukemono can be served in a few different ways. Bring something special to cocktail hour and enjoy the shoyuzuke with drinks, or accompany them with rice and serve as a side dish (okazu). Simply place a plate of shoyuzuke on the table when you serve a meal, or use it as a garnish for a complimentary dish.
- The names of the different varieties of tsukemono are based on what vegetable or fruit is being pickled. The most common tsukemono, besides cucumber, are daikon radish (takuan), turnip, ume plum (umeboshi), and Chinese cabbage. Often used as a garnish is pickled red ginger, called beni shoga, and gari, pickled ginger, is eaten between courses of sushi. If you order a Japanese curry, you may find some rakkyozuke alongside; this mild and fresh-tasting onion helps balance out the stronger flavors of the dish. For a combination of pickled vegetables, try fukujinzuke, a mixture of cucumber, eggplant, daikon, and lotus root which has marinated in a soy sauce-based brine.