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Traditionally every Japanese household pickled vegetables in Nuka (rice bran). The translation doesn't cut it too well. Rice Bran is too pretty. It's should be called rice shells in powder form. Nowadays, you can buy nuka pickled vegetables at grocery stores, so more and more people have stopped pickling their own vegetables at home.

I, on the other hand, love trying different food makings. I realized I can buy nuka in NYC as well, and one day, I thought I would give a try. When I was growing up, I didn't care for it that much, but once I grow older, things I didn't like in the past becomes my favorite. One's taste palette change, I guess.

The method is very simple. To make the 'dough' or pickling bed, you mix nuka, salt (shit load of it), water, red chili, mustard with water. Make a paste, and that's it. That's the easy part. Now you have to ferment the whole mixture by pickling cabbage leaves, pieces of vegetables, or whatever vegetable pieces you find, EVERYDAY, for about 10 days.

Also you have to aerate the whole mixture at least once a day in order to grow and keep the good germs alive. This is just like taking care of tamagotchi (do you remember?) or home made yogurt. You just have to take care of it everyday. If you lack aerating even for a day, it grows mold, and sometimes you can save them, but other times you have to start it over. I've been mixing this every morning when I wake up, and no matter how drunk I am when I get home, I do mix them at night as well. This is called devotion!

It needs very intensive care, but the end products are pretty good. It's hard to explain, but it is salty, sour, and pickl-y. Unfortunately they kind of smell like fart, but they taste good. It tastes and flavor is very peculiar, reminds us of our grandmas. Does this mean our grandmas smelled like fart?

Speaking of care, after you pickle a couple of times, the mixture gets loose, and you have to add more nuka. Or sometimes it gets too sour, then you have to add beer. Or sometimes it gets a bit moldy, you have to add mustard, or egg shells. Weird, huh?

Here are the pictures.

It's like loose cookie dough. Just smell different. Good nuka mixture smell almost like miso.

You want to use air tight container because the smell is pretty distinctive.

Yesterday, I bought a bunch of radish from green market. Popular ones are cucumber, eggplants (unfortunately the ones we can get here aren't good, even if they are called Japanese eggplants), daikon radish. I tried tomatillo, which was odd, pumpkin, which was kind of ok, if you close your eyes, cauliflower, no good. Possibilities are endless!

After washing them, you just put them in the mixture. Wait for 12-24 hours. I haven't quite figured out how long exactly I should pickle. Thicker vegetables definitely needs longer time to pickle.


For some weird reason, when pickling radish, it loses color onto the nuka mixture. Can you see a bit of pink in this?

Once it's pickled, you take them out, rinse them.

Aren't they pretty in pink or what?! Also another weird thing about pickled radish is that the color seeps inside, and the whole thing becomes pink. Some weird science going on.

Unlike western pickling, when you have to wait for weeks before you can eat them, this is pretty quick and easy. You just have to remember to take care of it daily.

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2 comments

  • Do they taste like the ones you get at restaurants? Thank you for the info!

    Elizabeth on

  • Great post, I'm a huge fan of things fermented.
    For the sake of your readers that may want to "try this at home", you might want to add some detail to the quantities that you use to make the nukazuke.
    "A shitload" creates more questions than it answers. Indeed, the salt is there to control the rate of bacterial activity and will GREATLY affect the nuka and the pickles that it produces. Too much and it won't work (beneficial "pro-biotic" bacteria won't grow), too little and it'll spoil (bad bacteria, yeast and mold will grow).
    Just a suggestion…

    CulinarySkeptic on

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