Picture of Japanese pickles
Japanese culture

Is Japanese pickle Halal? No! How much do you know about them?

What always accompanies Japanese meal.

There is so much information about Japanese meals, but how much do you know about Japanese pickles? It is a small dish that always accompanies Japanese food, but it seems very little is known.

As a Muslim traveling to Japan have to be very careful, because some of them are not very Muslim-friendly because they can contain alcohol and animal product.

Tell us about pickles.

Pickles are usually made from vegetables, such as radish, carrot, cucumber, Chinese cabbage or whatever you name it. It was a way to preserve vegetables longer for later use. The most basic recipe of Japanese pickles is to put cut vegetables into salt, Miso paste, rice bran, vinegar or Sake lees for fermentation.

As you see, because we sometimes use Sake lees for fermentation, it has high percentage of alcohol, which is the reason why Muslims should know well about Japanese pickles.

Halal / Muslim-friendly pickles

The list of Halal or Muslim-friendly pickles, which we mean is the ones without alcoholic seasoning or animal product.

Takuan (たくあん)

This pickle is made from dried horse radish, whose color is usually yellow or white. It is usually sweet and goes well with any types of Japanese meal. It is made from all natural ingredients such as salt, sugar, chili, rice bran and gardenia plant for coloring, so there is nothing to worry about for Muslims.

Asazuke (浅漬け)

Asazuke literally means lightly salted, so it is less sour and salty. Asazuke can be made only within a short period of time, so there is not so much fermentation caused.

It usually comes with cucumber, Chinese cabbage or eggplant. It is made from all natural ingredients, so most of them are completely free from haram ingredients. Sometimes, the recipe might use vinegar that contains a little bit of alcohol, which you have to be careful of.

Shibazuke (柴漬け)

Shibazuke is a cucumber or eggplant pickles, whose color is bright purple. The color comes from Shiso leave, which we have introduced in the article of Japanese condiments, which is complete halal.

Along with Senmaizuke (千枚漬け), a round white radish pickle, and Suguki (すぐき), a vegetable like turnip, these three pickles are Kyoto’s three most famous pickles.

Umeboshi (梅干し)

This is the most famous Japanese pickle! Dried plum is salted and colored by a natural leave called Shiso. If you are into anime, you may have seen people eating this pickle and frown between eyebrows because of the sourness.

Yes, the pickle is so sour, but can be sweet depends on the recipe, as sometimes people put honey into Umeboshi. It looks like a Japanese flag when put in the rice, which is called as Hinomaru Bento (日の丸弁当), Japanese flag lunchbox.

Also works as a disinfection.

Doubtful or haram pickles

Now let’s see pickles which usually contain alcoholic seasoning or animal product.

Fukujinzuke (福神漬け) and Rakkyo (らっきょう)

This is a red-color pickle that generally comes with curry and rice. It is made from chopped cucumber, radish, eggplant or mushroom, which looks like they are all halal, however, the truth is that they add Mirin alcoholic seasoning into this pickle.
Another pickle called Rakkyo (らっきょう), a Japanese version of shallot, is also an accompaniment for curry and rice. This pickle can be halal or haram as they are put in the vinegar.

Pickles for curry and rice should be avoided to be on a safer side.

Narazuke (奈良漬)

This is a pickle famous for its strong Sake flavor. Yes, this pickle from Nara contains alcohol, because white radish is dried and put in sake lees for fermentation. In order to be recognized as Narazuke, it has to have 3.5% or more alcohol detected, so even Japanese people who is not good at drinking alcoholic beverage can get a little bit tipsy. It does not intoxicate someone, but preferably avoided by Muslims.

Kimchi (キムチ)

This is not a Japanese but Korean pickle, but it is widely eaten in Japan, too. Although there are various types of kimchis, all of them have fermented shrimp and fish inside. This is still Halal, however, to thicken the taste, some kimchis contain animal product in Japan. This does not apply to all Japanese kimchis, however, when consuming kimchi, we ask you to carefully check on their ingredients.

In conclusion.

We have so many types of pickles that we cannot describe them all. Pickle is part of Japanese food culture, and it is something which should be enjoyed as a part of Japanese gourmet when you are traveling.

Though a pickle you are trying to consume is listed as Halal / Muslim-friendly, we ask you to check on their recipe and ingredients, as people can alter their recipe depends on a family or a manufacturer. They may have put additional seasonings or additives to make it last longer.