I wish I'd taken a picture of the bento boxes I'd made for my husband and myself earlier this week! Kara age (fried chicken), brown rice with umeboshi, carrot kinpira and Japanese pickled cabbage and cucumber.
God, I love pickles. Give them to me in just about any form and I'm a happy camper.
Unlike your dill or bread and butter pickles, these Japanese pickles don't use any vinegar as part of the fermenting process. Instead they rely entirely on salt.
And, if you like, you can toss them with a little soy sauce at the end.
Otherwise, just leave them alone. They're meant to cleanse the palate, not overwhelm it.
Quick Japanese Pickles
(adapted from both Washoku and Just Bento)
3 small Japanese cucumbers, thinly sliced (1/8" thick)
¼ head savoy cabbage, shredded or finely sliced
1½ tsp kosher salt
1 piece kombu, 1" square
½ tsp soy sauce
1. In a large bowl, toss cucumber slices with ½ tsp salt, massage for a couple of minutes, until slices begin to become limp and start to sweat.
2. Combine cabbage with cucumbers and toss with remaining salt. Massage again, increasing pressure as the vegetables become limper and you are able to squeeze a fair bit of liquid from them. Keep whatever liquid you get in the bowl.
3. Add in kombu and massage again. The kombu will feel a bit slippery which is a good thing. Place a plate, smaller than the size of the bowl directly on top of the vegetables. Weigh down with heavy weights (I put an 8 lb weight in a heavy jar on top of my plate) and marinate for at least 1 hour (preferably 3 hours) at room temperature (or 24 hours in the fridge).
4. Before serving, rinse under cold water and drain, squeezing to make sure no water remains. Drizzle soy sauce over pickles just before serving.