Tsukemono: 30 Days of Japanese Food

Everything you need to know about tsukemono: the history, ingredients and varieties of the Japanese dish.

Written by Michael Turtle

Michael Turtle is the founder of Time Travel Turtle. A journalist for more than 20 years, he's been travelling the world since 2011.

Michael Turtle is the founder of Time Travel Turtle and has been travelling full time for a decade.


Day 29: Tsukemono

Tsukemono literally translates as ‘pickled things’ and it’s a pretty simple and accurate description of what we’re talking about. Tsukemono is a broad category for the small bits of pickled vegetables that you’ll see all the time in Japanese cuisine.

The most common vegetables that are pickled in this style are turnip, white radish, cucumber, and cabbage but it’s also possible to find things like onion, ginger, ume plum, and eggplant.

tsukemono, pickled vegetables, japanese food, japanese dishes, side orders, japan

It took me a while to realise that I was seeing tsukemono pop up all the time. Those little bits of vinegared ginger that you get on the side of a sushi plate are an example.

All the small bits of vegetable in the corner of a bento box – that’s another.

Often tsukemono come as a small addition to a main dish, like those examples I mentioned. But it can often also be ordered as a separate item. That’s usually the case in places where you’re sharing lots of small meals or at the bar-style restaurants where the pickled goodness goes quite well with a few beers.

tsukemono, pickled vegetables, japanese food, japanese dishes, side orders, japan

I had this small plate of tsukemono at a restaurant in a town called Takasaki, northwest of Tokyo.

I ordered a main meal as well but felt like a bit of extra flavour on the side and this is what the waitress recommended. It cost an extra 300 yen (US$3.05) for the plate.

Tsukemono is not the kind of thing you would go out specially looking for and, as I mentioned, quite often it will appear at your table without you even realising. But it is something you could also ask for at many places if you felt like something nice and cleansing to go with your meal.

1 thought on “Tsukemono: 30 Days of Japanese Food”

  1. I love japanese food. Apecially sushi. I am very interested to learn how to make tsukemono. And other side dishes. Thank you More power to your group


Leave a comment