I am obsessed with pickles right now. Counter space is being steadily lost to the army of jars containing pickling experiments: carrots, beet steams, watermelon rind, herbs oh my!. However, the cucumber, the most well known vegetable in America to pickle is missing. For me a cucumber pickle has to be fermented or it tastes dull and limp. Vinegar never seems to be able to match that unique tang and fizz that comes from a properly brined cucumber.
So I was caught off guard a couple months ago when we went to Hamas. Every plate of delicious sushi came with a small pat of wonderfully tart, lightly sweet, sesame sprinkled, impossibly thin shaved cucumbers. I knew it was vinegar and I was instantly in love with Cucumber Sonomono. Cucumber Sonomono is a classic Japanese quick pickle, that accompanies meals as part of a larger body of Tsukemono or “pickled things”. Like most endeavors the Japanese consider Tsukemono to be an art. Tsukemono traditionally is broken up into three categories based on the time required to prepare and it’s pickling method whether brine, rice wine vinegar, salt, soy sauce or other umami ingredient, etc. Quick pickles fall into sokusekizuke (instant pickles) or ichiya-zuke (overnight pickles), “so” means vinegar hinting at the main base ingredient. Cucumber Sunomono is a sokusekizuke pickle for instant gratification, but gets better everyday it sits in its vinegar base.
Sadly, Hamas has changed the recipe for their Sonomono. Fortunately, I couldn’t handle that and have reverse engineered it for you here.
What you need:
2 large cucumbers
1/3 cup rice wine vinegar
3 teaspoons raw sugar
1 teaspoon sea salt
Sesame seeds to taste
What you need to do:
Slice cucumbers into rounds as thin as possible. Using a mandolin will yield the best results as you can essentially shave the cucumber. Combine all ingredients in a nonreactive container, stainless steel or ceramic. Stir till sugar dissolves. Transfer to a jar, seal and place in fridge to marinate for at least 2 hours. To serve, scoop from jar and top with sesame seeds.
A batch can be whipped up before any meal and any leftovers (of which there hardly ever is) can be kept in the fridge for a few weeks. Enjoy!