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Eat this! Tsukemono, refreshing Japanese-style pickles

Mana Food Bar’s seasonal pickles plate, with rhubarb, white kimchi and wasabi green beans.

Mana Food Bar’s seasonal pickles plate, with rhubarb, white kimchi and wasabi green beans.

What it is: Tart and refreshing, oshinko or tsukemono, Japanese style pickles, are made from a variety of vegetables, often brilliantly colored and intensely flavored. Most traditional Japanese meals feature some type of pickles, and there are a wide range of styles.

Jill Barron

Jill Barron

Where it comes from: Pickling in Japan goes back more than 1,500 years. As elsewhere, pickling provided a means of preserving summer produce to become a source of winter vegetables in cold regions.

By the Edo Period (1603–1867), tsukemonoya (pickle shops) were producing many types of pickled vegetables. In 1836, one pickle dealer in what’s now Tokyo published detailed instructions on making 64 kinds. Today’s tsukemono range from long-fermented varieties to quickly made types meant to be eaten within a day or two.

What to do with it: Oshinko are typically served as a side dish or appetizer. At Mana Food Bar in Wicker Park, Chef Jill Barron pickles local, seasonal vegetables such as rhubarb or green beans Japanese-style and serves them in a mixed pickles plate.

Mana Food Bar’s green bean wasabi pickles
Chef Jill Barron

1 pound green beans
1 tablespoon wasabi paste, mixed with water
1-1/2 cups water
3/4 cup rice vinegar
3 teaspoons sugar
3 teaspoons salt

Place the green beans in a plastic or glass container. Place the wasabi on top of the beans.

In a medium saucepan, bring the remaining ingredients to a boil, remove from heat and pour over the green beans. Place on top a same-size container filled with enough water to weigh down the beans. Let it stand 3 days, then refrigerate. Makes 1 pound pickles.

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