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.
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
Washing and Separating the Kyotona
Kyotona in the Pan
Cooking Down the Kyotona
Simmering with Soy Sauce and Sake
Sliced Dried Chili Pepper
Kyotona and Wagyu Tsukudani
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)
- 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.