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Sunday, October 25, 2009

Tsukemono: Nasu Age-bitashi

Simply put, Tsukemono is Japanese Pickled Vegetables. When I got my very own copy of Quick & Easy Tsukemono as an early birthday present, I couldn't wait to try out a few right away.

Author's note in the Preface struck a chord with me, when he says, ...Japanese enjoy plain, hot rice with tsukemono. Coming from India, where pickles are of a different sort, yet enjoyed very much with plain rice and hot ghee, I could relate very well to the experience the author shared about the Japanese way of eating.

While Indian pickles typically involve using spices and oil, Japanese pickles are simple delicacies with mild rice vinegar, sake, miso, soy sauce and maybe some ginger root, karashi (hot mustard, japanese), Yuzu citron, ginger root and chilli peppers for extra flavoring.

Of the many recipes, I was attracted to this Nasu Age-bitashi (marinated eggplant) tsukemono as it was quick, (ready in 30 mins), delicate and light, and used one of my favorite vegetables - i.e., eggplant :)

Now, I have this chronic inability to follow recipe to the letter and like to substitute ingredients if I can't find the exotic ones listed. In that sense, this Nasu Age-bitashi is not exactly as given in the book... I tweaked it a bit as my recipes lean towards being fusion cuisine, not quite authentic, yet tailored to my tastes.

Also, many times, I wonder if authors would be charitable if their recipes are taken verbatim and pasted across the web for free - so, I refrain from posting them. I like to use recipes in books for ideas, for directions in which I can flex my culinary muscles, and try to take away the principles and methods and apply it for my tastes... in this case, I was glad to take away the fact that miso and rice vinegar make such an interesting clean-tasting pickle within a short time.

6 Japanese style eggplants
2 bell peppers -or- 3 jalapeños cored/seeded
1 medium tomato -or- 5 small grape or cherry tomatoes
1 small white onion
1 clove garlic
vegetable oil for frying
1 tsp red miso
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
4 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp freshly cracked peppercorns

  1. Get the dressing ingredients together, stir well and keep handy
  2. Cut the eggplant into wedges, bell peppers into rings, deep fry, drain and add to the marinade
  3. Slice onions and separate into rings, chop tomatoes and toss into the marinade with the eggplant and bell peppers
  4. Let it stand for 30 minutes and serve with hot plain rice

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