Ginger and Pepper Tsukemono

Hot, spicy, zippy sweet ginger and pepper pickles appealed to my desire for distinct flavors.
Tsukemono (漬物) are Japanese pickles—vegetable preserved with salt or brine rather than vinegar. The method usually includes mirin, shoyu, vinegar, miso, and/or rice bran (nuka), or sake lees. Asazuke (浅漬け) is a sort of tsukemono characterized by its short preparation time (thirty minutes to one day) which makes it a very popular in Japanese households.
I happened to notice the jar of gari in my fridge when I tossed out the empty orange juice carton. Gari is a sort of tsukemono: sweet, thin slices of young ginger marinated in vinegar and sugar. It’s the kind of ginger often served with sushi. Many brands of commercially produced gari are artificially colored pink (in some cases by either dye and/or beet juice) to promote sales, the natural product typically has a pale yellow to slightly pink hue from the pickling process. Mine was not natural…
As I wheeled my grocery cart around the store’s vegetable displays the jalapeños looked dark green, shiny, and plump. I thought how pretty they would look with the pink gari. How colors look together has been in my mind: the new house, still mostly empty, needs to have a few rooms repainted.
Jalapeños are usually 2–3½ inches (5–9 cm) long, usually picked before they turn red. Compared to other chilis, the jalapeño has a heat level that varies from mild to medium hot. I’d recently bought some that were very mild, but you can’t tell by looking at them how hot they will be: the heat, caused by capsaicin is concentrated in the membrane surrounding the seeds.
I did hesitate before putting the peppers into my cart, considering that the Korean store might have shishito, the very mild pepper used in Japan. Chili peppers were introduced into Japan by the Portuguese, and—hot at first—were gradually hybridized to be a mild pepper suitable to the Japanese palate. Oh, but the Korean store usually has only the hot variety that looks like shishito…
I was led astray by smooth green skin!
should have considered this:
Past performance is not necessarily indicative of future results.

My gas stove does pretty well for roasting peppers over a burner. Jalapeños have a very thin skin, much thinner than the big green, yellow, or red bell peppers. They blistered and blackened very quickly. I plopped them under a towel to steam until they were cool enough to rub the skin away.
Ginger and Pepper Tsukemono
about 1 cup
experimental recipe, with potential

  • 3 lovely jalapeño peppers, roasted and skin removed
    (a better choice, if you make this recipe, is to use shishito)
  • 1 ½ Tablespoons gari (sushi ginger)
  • 2 Tablespoons of the liquid in the gari jar
  • a tiny pinch of salt

Cut the peeled pepper in half and scrape away the seeds and membrane. (Now would be a good time to taste your jalapeños; if they are hot hot hot, then I’m wondering if cooking them for a while would ease the heat? Maybe in water?)
Chop the peppers coarsely. Remember: you want to be able to eat these pickles with chopsticks.
Chop the ginger. Put the peppers ginger and salt into a plastic bag and let sit half an hour or so.

As noted, this was an experiment. My peppers must have been hot to start with, though the ones I’ve used recently have all been quite mild. Next time, I’ll use the shishito Japanese peppers.

Tsukemono are served with rice as a side dish (okazu) with drinks as a snack (otsumami), and as an accompaniment to or garnish for meals


14 thoughts on “Ginger and Pepper Tsukemono

  1. Hey Tess, Looks so refreshing and zippy! I don’t know about shishito peppers however, I’ve had a couple of stray real firecrackers at sushi bars. The Sushi master served me a sweet cucumber tsukemono to calm down the inferno that was my mouth. (And I don’t consider jalapenos super hot… but there is always that stray designed to really add some excitement to the meal)!

    • Yes. “refreshing and zippy” was my goal.
      I’m beginning to suspect that peppers are not true. That is, one can not depend on them because of their family (breeding) credentials. Jalapeños must have some sort of darker hotter background, and shishito, being bred from them must sometimes revert to their beginning…

  2. Tess, when jalapenos were first easy to find in supermarkets, they were universally very hot in my experience. After a time, milder ones were bred so that more people would use them. Of course, there was always some variation, but not so much as there is now. You are right that one can never tell about the heat level until tasting.

    I hope things are going fine in your new house. I’ve been away away from the site and must have missed any posts about your move. May you and Mr. Tess be very happy and feel at home.

    I’ll look around here now to see what goodies I will find. :)

    • Marcia!
      You know, I remember before J. and I were married using some peppers from the farmers’ market (which might have been jalapeños??). We lived in a house with 7 or 8 people, each with a night to cook. I made a stew which no one could eat, but I froze it in small containers. Even those added to a large pot made a burning impression of my cooking!
      But the jalapeños recently have been edible. The peppers the Korean store sells, when labeled “sweet” may not be shishoto, but are consistently not hot.
      Lesson: taste before using!!!

      I have been wondering about you! I’ve looked for “water chestnut flour” but have not seen it. Crisp for deep-frying sounds excellent so I’ll continue the search. Mostly lately I’ve been only to Korean stores so they might not have it.

      Re: the new house! Things are going slowly. J is out of town, but we have been moving books. We need to do some painting. and get the water supply pipes replaced.

      • Tess,
        We like very spicy food so the ‘dumbing down’ of jalapenos was not a happy event for us. There are other peppers which are reliably spicy, but we do enjoy the flavor of jalapenos.

        I don’t have any water chestnut flour right now, myself, but I just saw it recommended somewhere for deep frying. I’ve purchased it in Chinese markets in the past. Keep looking, as will I. Our closest Asian market is also Korean, and I’ve not seen it there.

        Some people enjoy moving and settling in more than others. Painting is so much more time consuming that one would think but the results make it worthwhile. Finding time can be troublesome, of course.

        Water supply pipes need replacing? I’m not a handy person and this sounds to be an major undertaking. I do hope that I’m mistaken. In any case, all will be done. I hope you’re being patient with yourself. :)

        • re: water chestnut flour
          It’s probably because I’m illiterate in Asian stores that I can’t see it. I do have a magnifier the size of a credit card to help read the tiny print on the labels stuck on in English. There is a huge Chinese/pan Asian market near the new house.

          Probably I should look there. That is where I found “Koon Chun potassium carbonate” to make ramen noodles. Husband and I looked and looked. He asked one employee who said “No. no” But then another employee (better English?) pointed right to it.

          Being able to read is so great!

          We negotiated the price of the house down to cover hiring a plumber (we hope enough!), but the guy is busy. If we move in, I’m afraid we’d spend the money on useless stuff like furniture so…

  3. Hi Tess,

    Regarding “easing the heat,” since milk, and other dairy products, like lassi, mutes chilli heat, would poaching over-hot chillies in milk temper their heat? Just a thought – I’ve no real idea if it would.


      • Yep – whole lot of ignorance there too!

        I have an occasional mooch around the forums but lately they seem to be asking questions to which I don’t know the answers, or questions I can answer, but won’t, as they’re asked for the 650th time! At least . . .

        Way too often questions are asked that are really Internet 101 – whatever happened to learning as a first resort, and asking for help as a last resort – not the other way round?

        I run an email advice service, here in the UK, for people with CFS having computer problems, because sometimes our minds just refuse to function (I’ve passed through that stage, luckily – it was what made me buy my first PC, back in 92, because I lost the ability to write longhand – still can’t), and when they ask for help they really need it – and I’m happy to share what I know, because I believe that knowledge has no value if it’s not shared, but when I see someone asking, yet again, why is no-one reading their blog, only to look and see that all they’ve written is Hi, I’m here, I do get a tad aggrieved!

        Right, that’s my gripe for today ;)


        • Yes and there are some fresh faces who seem to be handling the questions I know about—I’m busy with the new house so I pick and choose the questions I like to answer.
          And moderating: I’m only an auditioning mod despite my wondering/IM-ing/emailing/posting why I can do only a few things the “real” mods do…
          Wp using us as test subjects for their latest release of, the move of so many ms space people, and some oddities connected to the mce editor: all generates lots of questions…
          My rant for the day!

          Like you, “I believe that knowledge has no value if it’s not shared” I’ve also met some interesting people because of that. Both via the forums and via my blogs. sharing both ways, you know?

          That you are reading my Japanese cooking blog is a bit of a surprise!? Unlike this recipe, most of the posts I publish are winners that I recommend using.

          I wish the best,

  4. Hmm… Not to much of a surprise from my end, I’ve been interested in food from an early age, and a damn good cook, too, before disability trashed it. As with so much these days, what I can no longer do, I read about, keeping my hand in by proxy. The only subject I stay away from is backpacking – too depressing.

    I’ve backpacked over most of England and Wales, and chunks of mainland Europe, but got struck by lightning almost in my own back yard, walking in North Wales – fried my feet (literally), and wrecked most of my joints, along with a load of CNS damage. If my blog appears a bit grouchy at times, it’s a bad pain day! I’m a pussycat really, despite my villainous pic.

    These days I stick to the simple stuff, like making my own bread. I’ve found a really good source of flour, straight from the mill, and an exchange of information and recipes put me in the way, this year, of 5 kilos of Swedish spring wheat flour – dunno what they did with the rest, it never went on their website – too soft for loaves on its own, but it makes amazing rolls. Hopefully I can buy more next year.

    At the moment, I’m bottling about a gallon of home-made wholegrain mustard, mixed with cider vinegar and apple juice.

    I passed around a test batch a few months ago, learned from that (it stiffened up in the jar but was otherwise very well received and, apart from anything else, is apparently brilliant with cheese on toast), so this batch is a slightly finer grind with a somewhat higher liquid content and it’ll spread more easily – so all should be well, and it’ll be ready in time for Christmas.


    • Then not a surprise! I’m a vicarious traveler via the food I cook. Always have had an interest in Japan. So even if you don’t cook my recipes, (some of my recipes are simple), you imagine, as I do, what it might be like.
      the food, the country…

      I broke my ankle in Spain, in 2006, and for reasons of age or something, it changed my life. I think not so much as your experiences…

      Your mustard sounds delicious. Mustard and cheese on toast, with butter/ yummmm

    • You could use a pepper you like! My jalopenos were too hot! Any mild to medium hot green pepper would work.

      But this is not a dip so much as it is a small vegetable side-dish, sort of a miniature salad. Well, actually: a pickle.

      I suppose you could make it into a dip by pureeing it, but the colors might look funny. Maybe use red peppers instead?

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