Trail RecipesBy Akira Suzuki
Maitake, Shimeji and other varieties of mushroom
White sesame seeds
Preserving foods by boiling them in soy sauce and sugar is called tsukudani. From fish and meat to vegetables, this process works for almost anything. Today we’ll showcase tsukudani-style mushrooms.
Tsukudajima was an area in Edo (now Tokyo) where small fish and shellfish were easy to get, and the locals were particularly fond of using the tsukudani method to preserve them. The taste and storability became quite popular, and the kanji for ni (to boil) was added to tsukuda to reflect the history of the dish. Tsukudajima still exists in Tokyo as do a few tsukudani shops where seasonal dishes are still prepared in the traditional way.
The high amount of salt in soy sauce provides a great preservative, which is why foods are often stored soaked in soy sauce. However, this method makes for limited mobility. Instead, by boiling foods in soy sauce, the salt and soy taste seep deep within, and the addition of sugar adds to the effectiveness of the preservatives.
The finished tsukudani product is a sweet and easy-to-eat food. Although this style of cooking is a good way to deal with leftovers or create a new side dish, in the days before refrigeration tsukudani was a much-prized form of preservation, as sugar was an extremely valued commodity.
I, like many Japanese men, can make a small portion of tsukudani last over several bowls of steaming white rice and particularly enjoy this traditional delicacy.