Pickles are a part of many traditional meals and it makes sense why. Pickled foods are a great way to boost flavor, texture, digestibility and nutrient content in a meal

Concept of Five Satisfying our appetites involve more than the volume of food we eat. In Japanese cooking the concept of fives applies to everything about food. We use all five senses when eating – not just taste and smell. For example, a variety of food colours and plates are used to enhance visual presentation. Similar to Traditional Chinese Medicine, eating a balance of all five flavors are also important. Lastly, five different ways of preparing foods whether it’s steam, fried, roasted or raw the variety of food preparation styles enhances the overall enjoyment of the meal. In short, variety satisfies. Emphasizing variety over volume of food benefits our physiology as well: greater nutrition, healthy gut flora and longevity.

Cabbage is a particularly great vegetable for gut health with its super high fiber content, gut-healing glutamine, heart-healthy flavonoids and protective sulfur content. It’s also great for quarantine times as it’s inexpensive, stays fresh for a long time in the fridge and is so versatile for cooking.

I would like to share this simple “light pickling” technique used in Japanese cooking because it’s something that has helped me get more variety in meals with very little time. Quick pickling enhances the flavour, lightly preserves the food and allows us to get more nutrients out of the food by supporting digestion and making it easier to eat more veggies.


  • 2 cups of raw veggies like cabbage; cut in bite-sized pieces (about 1” square)
  • 1 tsp unrefined salt
  • 1 dried chili pepper – to taste; slice or break into small pieces
  • Optional: 1 piece of dried kelp/kombu (about 3” long) – heat up over the stove to soften and cut into strips or break apart into small pieces


In a bowl or bag, combine all the above ingredients, and massage together for a minute. Put a weight over the vegetable combination. Refrigerate for 2-3 hours. (I’ve done overnight – still works!). Remove from the fridge and squeeze out as much excess fluid from the veggies as you can. Now the veggie can be stored in the fridge for up to three days.

Just before serving, put a small portion on a serving dish (a few tablespoons for each person) and top with optional toppings.

Optional toppings: (adjust to your taste preference)

    • Dried bonito flakes
    • Toasted sesame seeds
    • Soy sauce, tamari or amino liquid or ponzu sauce
    • Shichimi (japanese chili seasoning)

Other veggies to try in combination or instead of green cabbage:

    • Nappa cabbage and other cabbages
    • Sliced cucumber
    • Sliced red radish, daikon radish
    • Chopped green stems/leaves from radishes (thoroughly washed) is one of my favourite ingredients for this light pickling
    • Sliced carrots and other denser vegetables may require more salt and more time with the weight on top (once the pickling is complete, you can adjust the salt level by rinsing the veggies off before serving)

Light pickling is a great way to enhance the flavour of seasonal veggies, help support digestion and add variety to meals – and takes very little time to make. Next time you’re looking for ways to prepare veggies, try this out!

Cooking together (but separately in our own homes),

Dr. Carin