Celery is not the most traditional Japanese vegetable and yet the aroma and flavours of these pickles seem so typically Japanese, I would not put this dish into the “fusion” category. The delicately vinegared, slightly smokey, dashi-based brine mellows the celery’s taste, but keeps it refreshing and crisp, making these overnight pickles a wonderful winter side-dish, which might even convert some celery haters.
This unusual idea comes from Gaku Homma’s Folk Art of Japanese Country Cooking, a book I bought with an Amazon gift card won at Nami’s Just One Cooking. Nami’s blog being an extraordinary source of Japanese recipes, I obviously opted for something which would remind me of her generosity. I wanted an original addition to my kitchen library and I didn’t regret my choice. Apart from containing a huge collection of traditional home recipes (often enriched by foreign influence, such these celery pickles), the book is a real mine of information about Japanese countryside food-related customs, and a fascinating explanation of different aspect of Japanese meals and ingredients. An aikido school creator and restaurant owner in Denver, Gaku Homma is certainly not a typical cookery book author and his different approach is also very interesting. As a passionate pickler, I was obviously particularly attracted by the “tsukemono” (pickles) chapter and am particularly keen on exploring it further. Thank you so much, Nami, for this wonderful present!
I have slightly adapted the recipe to a smaller batch of celery, low-salt soy sauce and adjusted to my taste. Check the original recipe in Gaku Homma’s book.
If you feel like experimenting with celery, you might like this short-term Celery Kimchi:
Here are some other easy Japanese pickles I am very fond of:
TIPS: Pickled celery can be served as a side dish with practically anything, but I think it’s particularly exceptional with seafood and fish.
The brine is based on Japanese stock (dashi). I have used one made with dried bonito flakes and konbu (see the recipe here), but it can be prepared with shiitake or dried fish too. Do not substitute this stock with Western chicken stock. Japanese stock is very quick to prepare, but if you cannot find the ingredients, it can be bought powdered in Asian grocery shops.
Preparation: 20 minutes + 24 hours
Ingredients (fills a 400 ml jar):
2 celery stalks, cut into bite-sized pieces
1/4 teaspoon salt
200 ml dashi (Japanese stock; I made one based on dried bonito and konbu, see the recipe here)
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
2 tablespoons low-salt soy sauce
Blanch the celery pieces for 3 minutes in boiling salted water.
Put into cold water to stop them from further cooking.
In a jar combine the brine ingredients.
Place the celery in the brine.
Close the jar and refrigerate overnight.
These pickles will keep refrigerated for about a week.