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This is a very basic Japanese “pickle” or salad that you might find in a home-style restaurant or in a bento box. This dish is ridiculously simple, but it keeps well and has a nice flavor and some crunch. No dressing makes it lower calorie, also. This is another of those dishes where I can not recommend a Ben-Riner (Japanese fixed blade slicer) enough. It makes doing this dish a snap. Oh, it is pronounced “skee-moan-oh”.
INGREDIENTS:1 small head of cabbage, quartered through the core and most of the core removed. 2 carrots, peeled 1 piece dashi kombu (thick Japanese seaweed for soup base) around 2 inches by 4 inches. 2 tablespoons kosher salt
Slice the cabbage across the quarters very thinly-1/16th to 1/8th inch thick.
If you are using the Ben-Riner, use the middle-sized comb and slice the carrots thinly on the diagonal. If you do not have the mandolin, use the large holes on a box grater and grate on the diagonal. Keep the carrots and cabbage separated.
Sprinkle the carrots with 1-2 teaspoons of salt and toss to coat well.
Sprinkle the cabbage with the remaining salt and toss to spread through out the cabbage. Gently at first, begin massaging the cabbage with the fingertips, then continue a little more vigorously. You can keep working up in strength until you can squeeze liquid out of the cabbage. (This squeezing will give a softer cabbage with a “squeaky” crunch to it. If you want a firmer, more cole slaw-like texture, do not knead so much.) Save the liquid/brine.
If you wish to eat the kombu, rinse it with cool water and use kitchen shears to cut it into thin strips. Otherwise, just rinse it.
Place the cabbage and carrots into a bowl together and toss well to combine evenly. If you are using strips of kombu, include them in this mixing process.
If you have a Japanese pickle press, load the combined vegetables into it, lay the piece of kombu over the top if you not using shredded kombu, and put the top in place, and screw down the pressure plate all the way. If you do not have a pickle press…
Put the vegetables into a non-reactive container that will take another container or plate of similar shape within itself. It is best if the container has a flat bottom and the top plate fits closely. If using a bowl, an inverted plate works well. Put weights on the top plate/container-a five pound bag of rice wrapped in plastic works well, or if this seems too much for the contents of the container, try a few soup cans -and leave on the counter for 3 hours or so. If the idea of leaving this out bothers you, or if the house is quite warm, put it in the refrigerator and let it go over night.
Just before service, squeeze out the extra liquid and taste. If the tsukemono is salty tasting, give it a rinse, then squeeze it dry again.
Drizzle with a little soy sauce if you wish, or a squeeze of lemon or a shake of sesame seeds.
Keeps in the refrigerator at least a week.
Chef’s Notes and Tips:
This is a dish that would show up alongside most meals, even breakfast. The seaweed should get a little “slippery” and the liquid will get a bit viscous from the seaweed. This is a good sign that things are going well with your “pickles”. You can experiment with this dish, adding slices of cucumber or peeled daikon radish if you wish. You could add a couple dried chilies or some fresh chili if you wish. This technique works for Tokyo turnips as well.
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