One of the best-kept secrets of Japanese cuisine is a range of side dishes known as tsukemono (つけもの, 漬物). The word, pronounced ‘tskay-moh-noh,’ means ‘something that has been steeped or marinated’ (tsuke—steeped; mono—things). Although tsukemono are usually made from vegetables, some fruits, flowers, and a few rhizomes are also preserved this way; it is, therefore, more accurate to characterize them as ‘pickled foods.’ Their preparation makes use of one or more conservation techniques, involving ingredients such as salt, sugar, vinegar, alcohol, and herbs, in combination with methods including dehydration, marinating in salt and acidic liquids, fermentation, and curing. The process of making tsukemono amounts to more than just a simple way of preserving otherwise perishable fresh produce. Apart from its nutritional value, the dish stimulates the appetite, provides delicious taste sensations, and improves digestion, all while remaining an elegant study in simplicity and esthetic presentation.
This book goes well beyond explaining the secrets of making crisp tsukemono. The authors discuss the cultural history and traditions associated with these pickled foods; provide recipes and outline techniques for preparing them at home with local ingredients; describe the healthful benefits and basic nutritional value to be found in the various types of pickles; and show how easy it is to serve them on a daily basis to stimulate the appetite or as condiments to accompany vegetable, fish, and meat dishes. The goal is to encourage the readers of this book to join us in a small culinary adventure that will allow us to expand and diversify our consumption of plant-based foods, which are so vital to our overall well-being. And along the way, there may be a few surprises.