Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Hagura uri asazuke - light Japanese pickles

As promised in the Hottarakashi Noen Farm field trip post, here is how to make asazuke / 浅漬け / light Japanese pickles. 浅い / asai means light, or shallow in Japanese. (This post is a bit off-topic, not being about baked goods and all, but I thought it was interesting to share.)

You can use cucumber, celery, Chinese cabbage, daikon radish etc., but for this post I'm making it with a kind of gourd called hagura uri / はぐら瓜 which I received as part of my vegetable box delivery from Hottarakashi Farm last weekend. I had no idea it was SO easy!

You'll need:
(adapted from original recipe here in Japanese)
  • 1 large hagura uri, or two medium sized ones
  • 2-3 teaspoons of salt
  • Fresh root ginger, sliced thinly
  • Dried red chillies, sliced thinly
  • Salted kombu (see below)
  • Ziploc bags

塩昆布 / Shio kombu

Kombu is dried kelp, a kind of seaweed. 塩昆布 / shio kombu / salted kombu is strips of kombu cooked in soy sauce, salted and dried. Kombu is high in glutamic acid, which is the amino acid responsible for the mysterious 5th taste of 'umami', and is used in a lot of Japanese cooking to enhance the flavours of other ingredients. Which I guess is what it is doing in this pickle dish.

Thoroughly wash and chop the ends off your vegetable. (Check out the sticky stuff beading out of the uri! It looks like a cucumber, tastes a bit like a cucumber, but the texture is more like melon. With the Latin name of Cucumis melo var. makuwa it's not surprising.)

I then took a vegetable peeler and peeled off strips of the skin, to be left with pretty intermittent stripes down the length of the uri. Now scrape out all the seeds. These came out very easily with a spoon, like a melon.

Chop and slice into chunks the size and shape you'd like to have.

Put the slices into a large bowl and toss them around in the salt. Divide the slices into Ziploc bags and flavour them thusly: either use a pinch of all three of the flavourings (kombu, dried chilles, fresh ginger) or use just those you fancy. I experimented with using a bag of uri for each flavour, and then also did an all in one. The kombu bag and the all in one pickles were the winners in my opinion. I would note here that you wouldn't need all of the ginger shown in this picture, as it gets quite spicy with all the salt...

Try to push out as much air as possible from the bags and seal. Put them in the fridge for a couple of hours and they are ready to eat. Tasted better the next day too.

Left to right: ginger, chilli, konbu, all 3!

Since these are not true, fermented pickles, they are perishable and so you'll need to use them up within 3 days. They are good as a snack with cold beer on a summer evening, or as a side dish with your meal.


  1. Sounds good! I use a super easy recipe for making cucumber pickles for kaiseki. Wash and slice your cukes, put in a strainer and sprinkle with salt, and leave to sit for about an hour, squeezing occasionally to get as much water out as possible. Rinse off the extra salt and place in a container. Add chopped shiso, a bit of something hot (paprika, chili powder, cayenne, etc), some rice vinegar and a bit of soy sauce, and stick in the fridge for at least an hour. Done!

  2. Washing the salty water off them sounds like a really good idea - I felt bad about the amount of salt in this recipe! I can recommend a bit of the kombu in the mix if you can get it. You don't really get a 'kombu' taste from it, but the pickles with it were noticeably tastier than the ones without.