Japanese Condiment: Kyotona Pepper Greens and Wagyu Beef Tsukudani

Kyotona Pepper Greens and Wagyu Tsukudani 京唐菜佃煮

Kyotona Pepper Greens and Wagyu Tsukudani  京唐菜佃煮
Tsukudani is a Japanese condiment that is usually made of seaweed that has been simmered in soy sauce, cooking sake and mirin. Kitayama, or the North Mountains of Kyoto are famous for Tsukudani made with mountain vegetables and mushrooms. Some tsukudani shinise stores in the city make tsukudani with wagyu beef.

Tsukudani is easy to make and goes well with rice and also with sake. Try it with wine too.

Tsukudani (佃煮)
Earlier in the spring of this year I got this incredibly delicious tsukudani from Tanigawa-san at Kichisen. He made it with whole togarashi pepper plant; the stems, leaves, tiny fruit and all. It was quite salty due to the amount of soy sauce used, fairly dry and the taste of pepper was obvious. I had wanted to make it myself but had only found that pepper plant in the store once.

I had wanted to make this tsukudani for myself and found Kyotona (京唐菜) the other day at the market. ‘Kyo’ means Kyoto, ‘to’ means pepper and ‘na’ means vegetable. I checked later and this wasn’t the exact same vegetable that Tanigawa-san used for his, it is more leafy but the peppery taste is definitely there.

I bought three bunches of kyotona and some wagyu beef to make mine. I wanted it to be something that I could use to flavor onigiri, so not insanely salty.

I checked around on the internet for recipes and they all used far too much soy sauce for my taste. I ended up using 1/5 the amount that one recipe called for. (See my recipe below.)

The Main Ingredients: Kyotona and Wagyu Beef
Kyotona Pepper Greens and Wagyu Tsukudani  京唐菜佃煮

Wagyu Beef
Kyotona Pepper Greens and Wagyu Tsukudani  京唐菜佃煮

Washing and Separating the Kyotona
Kyotona Pepper Greens and Wagyu Tsukudani  京唐菜佃煮

Kyotona in the Pan
Kyotona Pepper Greens and Wagyu Tsukudani  京唐菜佃煮

Cooking Down the Kyotona
Kyotona Pepper Greens and Wagyu Tsukudani  京唐菜佃煮

Simmering with Soy Sauce and Sake
Kyotona Pepper Greens and Wagyu Tsukudani  京唐菜佃煮

Kyotona Pepper Greens and Wagyu Tsukudani  京唐菜佃煮

Sliced Dried Chili Pepper
Kyotona Pepper Greens and Wagyu Tsukudani  京唐菜佃煮

Kyotona and Wagyu Tsukudani
Kyotona Pepper Greens and Wagyu Tsukudani  京唐菜佃煮

Here is my recipe:

  • 700 grams of kyotona (weighed before washing)
  • 100 – 200 grams fatty wagyu beef
  • 1 cup of ryorishu (cooking sake)
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup of high quality Japanese soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup of mirin (sweet cooking sake)

optional ingredients

  • a few tablespoons of sugar
  • 1 – 2 tablespoon of sesame oil
  • finely chopped ginger
  • dried red chili pepper (not too hot)

For my tastes, start I started with 1/2 cup of soy sauce per 500 grams of main ingredients (beef and greens). Add and adjust other flavors from there to your liking.

1. Slice beef into strips, not cubes as I did. Long and slender will keep them from separating from the greens. Saute for several minutes. Add sesame oil if necessary.

2. Wash the greens and remove stems. By hand squeeze out as much water content as possible. (At first I thought that I had committed a Kyoto-style sacrilege by not using the stems. But I simmered a few and tried them, they were quite woody and inedible. I imagine that with other varieties of greens the stems could be used though. Stems would probably need to simmer longer than the more delicate leafy greens.)

3. Cook down the greens to remove water content. I added 1/2 cup of cooking sake to a covered wok and steamed down the greens over high heat. Then I removed the cover, reduced heat and allowed most of the water to evaporate out.

4. Add remaining cooking sake, half the soy sauce and mirin. Taste and adjust flavor (add soy sauce, sugar, mirin, ginger, etc) accordingly to your taste. Simmer down until most liquid is evaporated and flavors are fully absorbed in the greens and meat.

5. Allow to cool, uncovered. I added finely chopped dried chili peppers. The fancy, Kichisen way to do it is to just add the seeds. I added the chili after the tsukudani had cooled down because I didn’t want the spicy hotness to be absorbed too much into the tsukudani, I assume that heat and liquid content facilitates this. I used 3 chili peppers and that might have been a little too much. I don’t want the tsukudani itself to be spicy, I just want it to contain some bits of spiciness in it.

How did it taste?

My tsukudani turned out not too salty, a bit sweet with the pronounced green peppery taste of the greens. I wish that this variety of greens had been more peppery though. The hotness of the chopped chili was about the right contrast to the oiliness of the beef.

Tsukudani Regional and Seasonal Varieties
In Japan tsukudani is made with many regional and seasonal ingredients. In mountainous areas, mountain vegetables and wild mushrooms are common and near the sea, fish, especially shellfish, are commonly used. Kombu kelp and other sea vegetables are probably the most common base ingredient, even in areas removed from the sea.

In Kyoto many people make tsukudani as a side dish with daikon radish greens.

Try making your own tsukudani inspired dish!
Usually the more expensive the tsukudani, the more salty it is, as it is only intended to be a tiny bite to accent kaiseki cuisine. Again, my recipe was intended to produce something that could be used to stuff or flavor onigiri or as a ‘topping’ for rice.

Try making tsukudani with whatever you can obtain in your region. You just need Japanese soy sauce, sake or cooking sake and sugar to get the base taste of this dish.

Tsukudani can be something to go with rice, or it can be more like an appetizer that would go wonderfully with wine or dark beer. I can imagine wild mushrooms in Europe or oysters in North America making some killer appetizer type tsukudani.

4 Responses to “Japanese Condiment: Kyotona Pepper Greens and Wagyu Beef Tsukudani”

  1. Arun says:

    I’d definitely like to try making something similar, although I’m not sure what I could get in England that would be similar to kyotona.. I’ll have to shop around, I guess. I’m having lots of fun trying out lots of dishes during my long gap between school finishing and starting uni, today I tried a steamed chicken dish from Guilin. Which isn’t Japanese..oops. I like seeing your recipes, please post more! c:

  2. Peko Peko says:

    Hello Arun,

    I love Chinese food too. I have spent a good deal of time in China. About 18 months total, I think. Mostly out in central and Western China (Tibet, Gansu, Qinghai and Sichuan), excellent food out there. I haven’t been to Guilin, I think.

    About this recipe, I hope that you could try making it with something that you can find in the UK. It really is adaptable. Even carrot greens would work, I think. I haven’t tried it, but I think that any pepper plant greens would work for this too.

  3. Mora says:

    Loved the recipe and can’t wait to try it. Great job as always.

    Have you considered writing about this to some of the major US food magazines, such as Gourmet, Food & Wine and Saveur? For us foodies here in Portland, Oregon, it would be a real hit given all of the incredible produce we have at our farmers markets. I’ve got to start spreading the word.

    I’m with Arun…more recipes, please!

  4. Peko Peko says:

    Hello Mora,

    Well, thank you! Yes, I have made a few contacts aboard about writing for publications such as you mention. You know, I have encountered what I perceive to be a slight bias toward women making the transition from foodie blogger to journalists/food writer.

    I wrote a number of Kyoto restaurant reviews for a publisher of travel guidebooks in the UK and I hear that that book will come out in autumn of 2009.

    We were honored to host a journalist from Bon Appetit this spring in Kyoto doing a story about tofu. That was great fun and that article is also scheduled for publication in the autumn.

    I would absolutely love to write for some of the publications that you mention! Please spread the word!

    More recipes on the way!

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