Written and illustrated by Misa Ono
Unrefined rice is called brown rice. Once the hard outer skin of brown rice is removed by milling, it becomes white rice. The milled powder is called bran (nuka in Japanese). “Nukazuke (bran pickling)” is made by adding salt and water to the bran, and picking the vegetables in it. This process increases lactobacillus and yeasts, also the vegetables absorb the bran’s nutrients and umami. Nukazuke perfectly goes with rice because it is originally the same, rice. Also you can pickle tofu or hard boiled eggs instead of vegetables.
There are so many different kinds of pickles in Japan and Nukazuke is one of them. “Bettarazuke” is one with a lot of koji. This is usually dried radish that is salt-pickled or pickled with amazake and sugar. It is very sweet and it matches with rice and sake.
“Kaburazushi” is another pickled dish with amazake. To make kaburazushi, pickle a turnip in salt, make cuts to it and put the salted yellow tail between the cuts, then soak it in amazake. It can be tasteless with only vegetables but with the yellow tail more umami is added which makes it tastier and delicious.
The same ratio of green chili pepper, soy sauce and rice koji produces “Sanshozuke”. It is nicely spicy, and great with rice and sashimi. I’ve made this once and used it for various kinds of dishes like stir-frying. It was supposed to be rested for a year or so to be more delicious but it was too good for me to be patient, so I used it all up in one week. Next time, I’ll be more patient.
I’ve also made “wasabizuke”. I chopped wasabi, mixed it with salt to remove the harshness, added sakekasu (and sugar if you like) and rested it overnight. The sakekasu eases the pungency of wasabi to a nice mild taste. It perfectly accompanies sake, and also is good to spread on a slice of bread with cream cheese. Try this when you have fresh wasabi!
Pickled koji is delicious for sure, and that with sake it is absolutely a perfect match as both is made of the same koji. This combination is what sake lovers die for!