Nukazuke: Japanese Rice Bran Fermented Pickles 京漬物 錦・高倉屋
Meet nukazuke, a traditional Japanese tsukemono that is fermented in rice bran with a bit of salt. Nukazuke is full of vitamins and can be extremely pungent. Most any kind of vegetable can be used, even meat can be pickled by this method! It is easy to make at home and only takes a few days. The saltiness and sourness of the final product can easily be adjusted to accommodate your own taste.
The Mr. Universe of Nukazuke: Takakuraya’s Red Turnip
In winter when the akakabura, or red turnip is in season, Peko (that’s me) MUST eat akakabura nukazuke from Takakuraya in the Nishiki Market. It is just the best! Let me say that again. It is just the best! Takakuraya’s red turnip nukazuke has appeared on KyotoFoodie several times and is even on our current masthead banner. Peko bought this one the other day and rushed home to photograph it for the foodies of the world. It was mighty tasty with rice and sake. (The taste does vary depending on how long it was fermented. The older, the better, in my book.)
Akakabura nukazuke is also very, very photogenic in my mind. I love how it is to bright red, the ‘greens’ are red, even the nuka gets stained red. Before washing you can’t quite imagine that it could be food inside that clump of dough-like nuka mash. But, just a quick wash and it is something completely different. The reds and the greens, the texture of the turnip itself after being pickled and of course the yeasty smell all come together as something that has no parallel, not just in terms of food, but even among other nukazuke!
Akakabura Nukazuke and ‘Greens’
Akakabura Nukazuke – Washed
Akakabura Nukazuke – Washed Greens Detail
Akakabura Nukazuke – Washed Detail
What is Nukazuke?
Nukazuke‘s history isn’t as long as you might expect, it was invented in the Edo period with the advent of rice milling. Previous to this there was no nuka in Japan because rice was eaten as brown rice, not white rice.
Beriberi was prevalent in Japan at the time and this illness is a result of vitamin B1 deficiency and nukazuke happens to contain a lot vitamin B1. So, the practice of making and eating nukazuke naturally spread and the government encouraged people to eat it.
Nukazuke has the tanginess of pickles but retains much of the crunchiness of fresh vegetables.
How is Nukazuke Made?
Traditionally every household had a large container filled with nuka for making tsukemono. Now it is often purchased in stores, but some families still make it. In recent years a small bag ‘set’ filled with salted, wet nuka and ready to pickle has become popular with small families and singles that want to make their own nukazuke at home.
Nuka can be obtained for free from most rice stores. It is popular to mill rice in a small milling machine on site after the customer has decided what kind of rice and how many kilos they want to purchase. Nuka just piles up and they end up throwing a lot of it away. I got some at Kunitaya, my favorite liquor store, and they were only too happy to give me a huge bag of it.
The water and salt is added to the nuka powder and the vegetables are buried in the nuka mixture, called nukamiso in Japanese. Once started the nuka ‘bed’ must be stirred once or twice a day, depending on the air temperature to prevent rotting. Water content is maintained in the nukamiso via the vegetables pickled. Additional ingredients may be added to the nukamiso for flavor such as kombu, egg shells, apple peels and chili peppers.
The tangy, pungent flavor is achieved as a result of fermentation process that produces lactic acid.
Nukazuke Sliced and Served with Rice
Nukazuke Served with Rice
This picture might be a bit misleading. You don’t ‘sprinkle’ tsukemono on rice in Japan like a topping. Tsukemono and rice are almost always eaten together, in the same bite, but tsukemono isn’t a ‘topping’. A bite-sized portion is picked up off the plate, placed on the rice and scooped up the the chopsticks.
Peko’s Favorite Nukazuke Shop
Peko’s favorite shop for nukazuke is Takakuraya at the east end of Nishiki Market street. Takakuraya offers other kinds of pickles as well, but I like their nukazuke because it is very sour.
Miwa did some research on the store and it turns out that the owner, loves nukazuke that is quite old, the older the more sour. So, Takakuraya’s nukazuke is a bit more sour than usual — therefore Peko is a big fan.
＊Below are some pretty horrible piks that I took with my mobile phone. You get the idea how they sell them in the market. The tsukemono is presented on top of the nuka bed. This is just for show. They are really fermented somewhere else.
Akakabura Nukazuke and Plum Bonsai
Previous KyotoFoodie article (midway down there are two pretty excellent piks, before and after.)
Nishiki Takakuraya Tsukemono Specialty Store 京漬物専門店 錦・高倉屋
location: Takakuraya is located on the east end of the Nishiki Market street, next to the shoe store on the south side of the street, very close to the Shikyogoku arcade.
address: Kyoto-shi, Nakagyo-ku, Nishikikoji-dori, Teramachi, Nishi-iru, Higashidaimonji-cho 289-2 (京都市中京区錦小路通寺町西入ル東大文字町289-2)
website: http://nsk-takakuraya.ocnk.net/ (circa 1995, Japanese language only)
10:00 am – 6:30 pm