Mar 15
2010

Kyuri Asa-zuke (Japanese Lightly Pickled Cucumbers)

in Bento, Fruits & Vegetables, Fuji Favorites, Japanese, Oyatsu/Snack, Recipes By Region, Recipes by Type

I love tsukemono.  For those of you not familiar with this category of Japanese cuisine, tsukemono can be loosely translated as “pickles.”  But calling tsukemono pickles is really kind of a misnomer.  Tsukemono are items that have been marinated using some sort of pickling liquid (the liquid can vary from vinegar to plain salt to rice bran).  Unlike the pickles we are used to, they tend to be highly perishable, and are made to be eaten within a few days.  Tsukemono are served as the final course at a Japanese dinner, though often they are on the table for the entire meal at home.  Some are served as a garnish, while others are served more like a salad.  There are hundreds of variations of tsukemono, and the best part is that many of them are easy to make.  One of my favorite tsukemono is kyuri asa-zuke, or Japanese cucumbers that have been lightly pickled.  Kyuri asa-zuke are often sold at Japanese matsuri (festivals) whole and on sticks.

(Enjoying kyuri asa-zuke on a stick at a matsuri in Tokyo back in 2007.)

Eating kyuri asa-zuke at matsuri copy

This recipe for kyuri asa-zuke is adapted from a recipe given to me by my dear friend Yoshiko, who I worked with in Tokyo.  I used mini seedless cucumbers because Japanese cucumbers are harder to come by without making a special trip to a Japanese grocery store.  Japanese cucumbers are thinner than the fat garden cucumbers most of the supermarkets sell here in the US.  They have a thin skin that doesn’t need to be peeled and very inconspicuous seeds.  If you can’t find Japanese cucumbers, you can substitute an English cucumber, mini seedless cucumbers, or a garden cucumber that has been peeled and seeded.

Mini seedless cucumbers

These tsukemono are so easy and are a wonderful refreshing snack or side to a meal.  All you do is wash and dry your cukes, then rub them with sea salt and cut them into slices.

Rub salt into cucumbers and then cut them into slices

Then you pack the slices into a glass jar,

Place the cucumbers in a jar

pour the marinade over them and cover the top of the jar with plastic wrap, and then screw the lid in place.  The plastic wrap prevents the vinegar from touching the metal of the lid (which will affect the flavor of the pickles).

Seal the cucumbers in a jar

After 12 hours in the fridge, the pickles are ready to eat!

Refreshing Kyuri Asa-zuke

Print This Recipe

Kyuri Asa-zuke (Japanese Lightly Pickled Cucumbers)

2 – 3 Japanese cucumbers/3 – 4 mini (seedless) cucumbers (about 10.5 ounces/300 grams)
3/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1 1/2 inches kombu, cut into thin shreds with kitchen shears
7 tablespoon water
3 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar

1. Wash the cucumbers and pat them dry.  Rub the cucumbers with the salt, then cut them into 1/2-inch slices and place in a glass pint-sized jar.  If the pieces don’t all fit, you can remove pieces and gently press down on the pieces in the jar to make them fit.  Add the kombu to the jar.

2. Mix the water, vinegar, and sugar together in a separate container and then pour the mixture over the cucumbers.  Cover the top of the jar with plastic wrap, and then screw the lid in place.  The plastic wrap prevents the vinegar from touching the metal of the lid (which will affect the flavor of the pickles).

4. Put the cucumbers in the refrigerator to marinate for at least 12 hours.  She the jar up and down occasionally so the marinade penetrates the cucumber slices well.  Each time you take cucumber slices out of the jar, make sure and reseal it with the plastic wrap before replacing the lid.

* You can also add soy sauce, chili pepper, or sesame oil to the marinade according to your tastes.

{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

Christine @ Fresh Local and Best March 15, 2010 at 1:35 pm

I order these pickled cucumbers all the time at Japanese restaurants! This is a very approachable recipe, and I’ll be making it when things settle here.

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jenjenk March 15, 2010 at 1:38 pm

Yum…makes me wish I had some of that & a bowl of rice!! :)

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Jenny Flake March 15, 2010 at 1:50 pm

I love this post! Cute pics and YUM, those pickled cucumbers look incredible!

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Lyndsey March 15, 2010 at 1:58 pm

Thanks for the recipe, this seems like a very simple pickle recipe. I like that, they look awesome! You are adorable! Nice pics!

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Gaby March 15, 2010 at 2:42 pm

OMG THOSE ARE MY FAVORITE CUCUMBERS EVER! I seriously buy them in bulk whenever I find them at the farmers market and just snack on them all day long. I have even gone so far as to dip them in guacamole :) haha!

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Roberta March 15, 2010 at 2:51 pm

I love cucumber in vinegar, espcially this time of year. At a local restaurant, PF Chang’s, they have cucumbers w’sesame seeds as an appetizer…yum! I was wondering though…what is “kombu”…thanks, Roberta

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Fuji Mama (Rachael) March 15, 2010 at 3:27 pm

@Roberta, Kombu is a thick type of dried kelp used often in Japanese cuisine! You can see an example here: http://www.asianfoodgrocer.com/product/wp-dashi-kombu-2-oz You could make the cucumbers without it, but it would taste slightly different. I hope that helps!

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Trent July 22, 2010 at 7:05 pm

@Roberta, Kombu is dried seaweed, used as a flavoring in many soups and brines. You can get it at your local health food store, but it is usually only available in bulk. I would try Whole Foods because they have such a wide selection of items. I live in Hawaii, so if you come here, try Kokua market and you can get all the kombu you need! Hope it helps.

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Tokyo Terrace March 15, 2010 at 4:09 pm

Fabulous! I love kyuri asa-zuke. Great tip about the saran wrap helping to block the metal lid from the vinegar. Love the post!

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Helene March 15, 2010 at 4:10 pm

You’re gonna laugh but as soon as I got home I made a batch of your refrigerator pickles. And another one. And another one.

hi! my name is Helen and I am also a pickle addict :)

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Fuji Mama (Rachael) March 15, 2010 at 5:00 pm

@Helene, LOL, love it! You and I are “pickle sisters.” :)

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Gaelle@whatareyoufeedingyourkidsthesedays.com March 15, 2010 at 4:58 pm

I love it! It reminds me of the cornichons I used to make with my grand-mother. We would prep them exactly the same way, except that we would use white vinegar and tarragon/mustard seeds for flavoring. I will definitively try this recipe out because, I love pickles!

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Fuji Mama (Rachael) March 15, 2010 at 5:02 pm

@Gaelle@whatareyoufeedingyourkidsthesedays.com, Ooooooh, I LOVE cornichons! I fell in love with Maille cornichons when I lived in Paris. I could sit and eat an entire bottle by myself. I would love to get your recipe!

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Cookin' Canuck March 15, 2010 at 7:47 pm

Love it! My family always makes very thinly sliced pickled cucumbers to eat with salmon. I love the look of these Japanese cucumbers.

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Donna - Dishy Goodness March 15, 2010 at 8:47 pm

These look so good — I am a fan of tsukemono, too! Now that I think about it, I just bought a bag of the mini seedless cucumbers! Thanks for reminding me. :)

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Fuji Papa March 16, 2010 at 5:10 am

Are these similar to the marinated cucumber slices you get in some sushi restaurants as a starter? Now I have both you and Andrew making home-made pickles. I’m going to have to get with the program.

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Debi (Table Talk) March 16, 2010 at 5:46 am

Love these ice cold and crisp.
After dinner and before dessert is a great time for these-yum!

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Lana @ Never Enough Thyme March 16, 2010 at 6:01 am

Although I know next to nothing about Japanese cuisine, these look just delicious. Reminds me of the cucumbers and vinegar I make for my grandkids during the summers.

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Michelle March 16, 2010 at 7:57 am

I just love this recipe and it’s a perfect amount to make too!

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Bob March 16, 2010 at 11:45 am

Interesting, I need to try these.

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sophia March 16, 2010 at 8:57 pm

Oh they look fantastic…but they will SOUND and TASTE fantastic…in my mouth! The light crunch, and that tangy infusement! Ooh la la…

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elicia March 17, 2010 at 7:01 pm

I’m so glad that you posted about this because I’m looking for a canning version of tsukemono. Have you seen one? ea

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Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction March 17, 2010 at 8:51 pm

Ooh… These look great! What a great recipe for this summer when I will inevitably have more cucumbers than I know what to do with in the garden. Definitely a recipe I will save!

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Divina March 18, 2010 at 7:22 am

This is really refreshing. Hard to find Japanese cucumbers here but they’re better than other cucumbers for this.

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lej June 30, 2010 at 12:22 pm

My husband and I tried a sample of these offered to us while at the local Japanese supermarket and loved them. Buy a couple for his bento lunch box. Now we’ve run out, so I going to give your recipe a try. But I don’t have konbu and thinking of adding some thin slices of ginger.

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Lorraine August 16, 2011 at 4:24 pm

I just tried making some of these but used seaweed as I couldn’t find kombu kelp in our area. Could I use macro kelp instead?

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Fuji Mama (Rachael) August 17, 2011 at 9:12 am

@Lorraine, You could use macro kelp, but the flavor will be different. I haven’t tried it, but I’m imagining that you won’t get as much flavor from the macro kelp. I would maybe double the amount of macro kelp used. Good luck!

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Phil Bergin February 5, 2012 at 12:47 pm

My wife is Japanese and she is looking for any store that sells her favorite version of these cucumbers. The name is Kyuri No Q-chan. Anyone know any stores that sell them? We live in Spokane Washington and cannot find them here or even in Seattle. If we can find a store that sells them we may be able to call them and have them ship to us. Thanks.

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Dominica August 5, 2012 at 10:56 am

Kombu is dried kelp! :)

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Kendrick March 11, 2014 at 8:55 am

The real looking icon set is fantastic, lots of many thanks

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