Every once in a while, I discover something in Japan so amazing that I’m compelled to share it with the world. Fortunately, that feeling passes after a few beers, so I don’t actually have to do any work, which I’m allergic to. I’m pretty sure that if I was ever given a job involving something like a shovel I’d break out in hives. I’m not even sure which button you push to make the thing start.
Now, if you were to stop random Japanese people on the street and mention my name, they’d likely reply: Ken Seeroi? Oh, he’s got the sensibilities of an 80 year-old Japanese chef. Either that or, Isn’t he the dude sleeping in the park over there? But I mean, Japanese food, it’s pretty delicious, you know? I even like cooking it, since the end result is more Japanese food, followed by more eating. That’s known as a symbiotic relationship, I think. Whatever. The only problem is I’m a guy, which means that I’m genetically programmed to choose sitting on the couch and dialing Japanese Domino’s over anything involving a pot and stove. All that stirring, jeez. Who’s got that kind of time?
So imagine my excitement when I discovered the easiest Japanese food ever. Really, just try to imagine it. This discovery came in the form of a bottle labeled 浅漬けの素. Yeah, try saying that a few times fast. Rolls right off the tongue. In English, this would be called—-wait for it—-picklin’ juice. Best stick with the Japanese, actually, since it sounds more exotic: asazuke no moto. Don’t worry too much about trying to say it right, since white people are incapable of pronouncing such sounds correctly anyway. Don’t know about black folks, but I’m kind of thinking no there too.
All About Japanese Pickles
Now I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking “Pickles, the hell. What’s so great about freaking pickles?” Am I right? No? Eh, first for everything. Well, you didn’t properly imagine my excitement either, so there. What I’m describing are called tsukemono, and they’re in no way related to those nasty green things that come in a jar. I don’t care if they’re kosher or not, they taste like somebody put a cucumber in a pot with some dill and an old sock. Who’d want to eat stuff out of a jar anyway? That’s only one step away from a can, until one day you find yourself chowing down a cat food sandwich. It’s a slippery slope, is what I’m saying. Whatever. Japanese pickles taste amazing. Let’s just leave it at that.
How to Make Japanese Pickles
Somehow, I’d always assumed, because of their extreme level of deliciousness, that Japanese pickles were hard to make. But actually, they’re butt easy, if you’ve got the magic picklin’ juice, that is. Right on the label of the bottle, it lists the steps, 1, 2, 3, in Japanese. Allow me to translate.
1. Cut you up some vegetables
2. Put ‘em in the picklin’ juice
3. Shake ‘em around a while
4. Wait 30 minutes.
See? Easy as 1,2, 4. Who ever said Japanese folks were good at math? And I bet you didn’t know they spoke with West Virginia accents either. Well, they sure do if they’s makin’ theyselves some picklin’ juice. Mmmboy they do.
Healthy Japanese Food
Now, some of the more health-conscious readers might be tempted to ask, But Ken, aren’t pickles a little high in sodium? To which I can only reply, Hell yeah they are. That’s why they’re called pickles, and not, I dunno, Moon Pies. They’re supposed to be salty. What am I, a cardiologist? Just snarf down a banana or a sweet potato or something; that’ll balance you out. Plus, any time you’re consuming a vegetable which is not a pizza topping, it’s healthy by default, so quit yer worryin’ and get to picklin’.
How to Eat Japanese Pickles
Well, you put them in your mouth, that’s a good start. Then start masticating. No, not that. You’ll never get any vitamins that way. I was going to insert something here about masticating with cucumbers, but it seemed a bit crude, so I won’t. Ken Seeroi, exercising self-restraint since 2014.
In Japan, tsukemono are a side dish. They work well with just about anything you’d serve with rice. They’re also eaten as an appetizer to accompany beer or sake, as a healthy alternative to, in my case, Calbee’s potato chips. Coincidentally, they also go remarkably well with Calbee’s potato chips. Put a slice of pickled carrot between two chips and it’s like you’re having a vegetable and salt sandwich. Doesn’t get much better than that.
The Bad News
Okay, the good news is that, at least in the U.S., magic picklin’ juice is available on Amazon. Seriously, is there anything that company doesn’t sell? They’ve got a drone army just to ship you pickle juice that’s floated all the way across the Pacific. What kind of company does that? Anyway, the bad news is that it only comes in a case of twelve, which means it’s too heavy for the drone army and unless you plan on opening your own Japanese pickle restaurant, you’re gonna have to make a dozen friends who are all as excited about pickles as I am. Good luck with that.
Making Pickles from Scratch
Okay, let’s see a show of hands for people who think they can just make pickles from scratch, using vinegar and some seasonings and stuff? Women in the audience? Great. Okay, now how many guys raised their hands? Splendid, you’re all gay. I mean, nothing wrong with that. Probably better you heard it from me rather than some hairy dude in the men’s room. Because no real man would ever take the time to make something that already comes in a bottle. Like ketchup. Sure, you could go out and plant tomato seeds and water them daily until they grow tall and sun-ripen to a rich red and you lovingly pluck them from their tiny stems and then violently mash them to bits with salt and sugar—-or you could just go buy a freaking bottle of Heinz. Pretty sure that’s why God created grocery stores in the first place.
I was amazed to discover that there are whole books devoted to pickling. What kind of sick person thinks, Today, I want to read a book about pickles? Clearly these people do not enjoy food. I mean, sure, you could order a book, wait for it to be delivered, then lie abed nightly poring through pickle recipes before drifting off to sleep, until one day you finally jump up and start pickling. Or you could consume a case’s worth of magic pickin’ juice in the same time. Your choice; just saying. So unless I open the book and pickles start falling out, there’s no way I’m buying it.
So there’s your ancient Oriental wisdom for the day: Japanese pickles, you should make ‘em. They taste excellent. Me, I’m gonna go order a pizza and eat a couple of Moon Pies. Space age, baby. But you should make ‘em. You can thank me later.