These delicious pickles are hard to come by, but even harder to stop eating!
Our Japanese-speaking reporter Seiji Nakazawa recently spent a few days in Fujino, a mountainous area in the city of Sagamihara in Kanagawa Prefecture. About an hour from Tokyo, Fujino is a rural area with a small population but home to annuals Soraniwa Music Festivalin the organization of which Seiji participated this year.
It was while he was volunteering at the Soraniwa Music Festival that he was gave a mysterious fruit to a local farmer in Fujino, making him feel like a character in a weird cooking based RPG.
▼ “It’s dangerous to go alone! Take it.”
It was a gift for all the volunteers who helped at the festival, but Seiji had never seen a fruit like this before. It looked a bit like an avocado with the skin off, but the surface of the fruit was dry, hard and stiff. It’s certainly not a common vegetable in Japan, so Seiji was a bit confused as to what to call it, let alone what to do with it.
He decided to ask Batako, one of the Soraniwa Music Festival volunteers and someone who lives in Fujino. During their conversation, Seiji suddenly remembered the day before the festival when a group of volunteers spent the night at Batako’s house and she made them dinner.
▼ Remember the flashback!
It was delicious, of course, but there was one part of the meal that made Seiji stand out — mysterious pickled items in ramekins on the right.
The texture was crumbly and crunchy with a slight sweetness. It was the absolute best pickled thing Seiji had ever eaten, and eagerly asked Batako what it was called.
“This is chayote chayoteBatak said.
Chayote, also known as myrliton or Choko, may have surprised Seiji, but is often eaten in South America and many parts of Asia. Ordinary supermarkets across Japan are unlikely to offer chayote pumpkin, and Seiji has never seen it in any of his local supermarkets in Tokyo, but it’s something of a local specialty in Fujino, and every family has their own special way of preparing it.
Seiji decided to ask other Soraniwa volunteers to share the recipe with him, and here it is. Fortunately, it only includes four simple ingredients – soy sauce, mirin, sake and chayote. As with all the best family recipes, there are no exact amounts for each ingredient, so just go with your gut!
First, mix soy sauce, mirin and sake in a 1:1:1 ratio in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Chop the chayote into thin, bite-sized pieces.
As a side note, there are cases online of people reporting a reaction to chayote juice when chopping. Seiji had no negative reaction, but people with sensitive skin may want to wear gloves when handling the fruit.
When the mixture boils, turn off the heat and mix in the chayotes.
Put the lid on and leave the mixture until ready.
According to some of the volunteers who shared this recipe, boiling the mixture twice will allow the kabak to absorb more flavor, but when Seiji went to test the taste of his creation, it had almost exactly the same flavor as the squash he had eaten at Batako’s house!
Seiji’s art was only slightly saltier than Batako’s, but still his chopsticks kept moving from plate to mouth. I plan to do it again, next time adding some sugar and vinegar, provided he can find another chayote at all!
In the meantime, he can always get his pickle from his fellow reporter Go Hatori and his professional pickling grandpa.