Senmai means one thousand slices, and senmai zuke means thinly sliced pickles – not literally one thousand slices of pickles but many thin slices. Turnip and daikon radish are the typical vegetables used for this style of pickles in Japan. I grew up visiting temples in Kyoto every winter, and the surrounding area is famous for senmai zuke made with a special type of local turnip called Syogoin turnip. We always bought a lot of this special senmai zuke to bring back to enjoy at home. Senmai zuke is forever linked to my memories of Kyoto in winter.
In the US, forget about finding Syogoin turnip, if I can get Japanese turnip I am lucky. Oftentimes I use purple top turnips instead. Compared with Japanese turnips, they don’t stay as crisp, but they still work satisfactorily.
- 1 lb purple top turnip
- 1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 cup rice vinegar
- 1/4 cup mirin
- 4 tablespoon sugar
- 5 inch kombu, cut into a few pieces
- 1 takanotsume chili or chile de árbol
- Slice the turnip as thin as you can, and place in a bowl or a plate. Sprinkle salt all over the turnip, and let stand for at least 2 hours until it gets slightly wilted - this will depend on the thickness of the slices. If the slices get too wilted at this point, the result will be pickled turnip without crispness so watch carefully and adjust the time accordingly.
- Mix rice vinegar, mirin, sugar in a saucepan, and simmer until sugar is dissolved. Let it cool.
- Drain turnip, lightly squeeze if you like but do not rinse, and put in a glass bowl or a jar. Pour the vinegar mixture over it, and put kombu and chili in between turnip slices. It is ok that the turnip is not covered with the vinegar mixture completely. Cover the bowl, and let it marinate in the refrigerator overnight. Make sure to mix a few times during the process. It should be ready the next day.