Nuka-zuke (rice bran pickles)

Pickles made from rice bran (nuka-zuke) are delicious and easy to make. They have a...uh... pungent aroma, a tangy flavour, and are very nutritious since they harbor vitamins and minerals from the rice bran. Unlike salt pickles, nuka-zuke last for only a few days once removed from the pickling medium. It is best to pluck them fresh from the pickling medium, wash them, pat them dry and then immediately eat them. Like all Japanese pickles, these are particularly tasty with sake or beer.

In order to make nuka-zuke you will need a large wide mouthed glass jar or ceramic pot with a tight fitting lid(plastic, wood, or metal containers won't work for this pickling method). A jar with at least a quart capacity is required.

Begin by purchasing a package of "nuka" (rice bran) from an Asian grocery. Just get plain dry roasted rice bran. Place 6 cups of rice bran and 1 tablespoon of salt in a bowl and add 1 3/4 to 2 cups of water. Mix together with your hands until the bran has the consistency of slightly moist sand. Place some of the moist bran in the jar and then add a small 2 inch strip of kombu seaweed (this helps maintain the moisture balance in your pickling medium), add more bran to cover and then add 2 cloves of peeled but uncut garlic (this adds much flavor to the final pickles, you can also use a small knob or fresh ginger). Continue to fill the jar with bran and then add 2 dried red peppers (this adds flavor to the pickles and also discourages bugs from entering the rice bran mix. Finish filling the jar with bran, making sure that the kombu, peppers, and garlic are completely buried. It will take at least a week for the rice bran medium to ripen and be ready for use. You can speed up this process by adding vegetable scraps (peels from cucumbers, wilted cabbage leaves), to the bran but remove the scraps after a day or two. After a week or so the pickling medium should have an... interesting aroma and look like damp sand. It will then be ready to use.

A good batch of rice bran medium can last for years. If it becomes too wet after much use just add a little bit of dry rice bran. It's also a good idea to "air out" the mix on occasion, stirring it up with your hands or a spoon.

Vegetables to be pickled must be completely embedded in the rice bran and left in the pickling medium from one to two days. The finished pickles should be bright in color, limp but crunchy, and possess a... noticeable aroma and earthy aftertaste. Good pickles are only slightly salty and have a delightful tangy flavor to them.

Try these vegetables:

  • carrots, cut into spears about an inch long
  • nasu (Japanese eggplants), unpeeled, pierced and cut into segments about one inch long
  • kyuri (Japanese cucumbers), pierced and cut into segments about an inch long
  • daikon, cut into rounds about 1/4 inch thick (you can also cut them into half moon shapes)
  • kabu (Japanese turnips), slice off the greens and cut a deep X into the stem area before embedding in the rice bran. You can also embed the turnip greens to be pickled.

    go to Tsukemono (Japanese pickles)

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