Narazuke (gourd pickles seasoned in sake lees) (奈良漬け)
Narazuke is a kind of pickles made with vegetables such as gourd, cucumber, watermelon, and ginger first pickled in salt, then in fresh sake lees several times.
Narazuke has been present since more than 1300 years ago in the name of "kasuzuke." There is something like an invoice that reads 'kasuzuke uri' (gourd pickled in sake lees) even in one of the wood strips of Prince Nagaya excavated at the site of Heijo Palace. However, as sake at that time was crude home-brewed sake, "kasu" (lees) may not have been strained lees but may have been precipitates that accumulated at the bottom of the sake container. Also, it seems to have been valued highly as preserved food or pickled vegetables for the upper class. There is a record indicating that it was regarded as luxury foodstuffs.
Thereafter, in the Edo period, narazuke became popular as an item presented to the Bakufu (Japanese feudal government) and also owing to the travelers who visited Nara. And it comes to win the heart of the common people. And the name was changed to "narazuke" as Sosen ITOYA, a doctor of Chinese medicine, named so during the Keicho era (1596-1615). The name "narazuke" is now used as a general noun, and even those prepared outside Nara Prefecture are called "narazuke."
A combination of broiled eel and narazuke is one of the standard dishes. Narazuke helps get rid of an oily taste that remains in the mouth when eating broiled eel. And it freshens the mouth effectively. It increases gastric activities and prevents heartburn. From the nutritional viewpoint, it is also said to promote decomposition of fat and absorption of vitamins and minerals effectively.
In addition, driving cars after eating a large amount of narazuke may be deemed as driving under the influence of alcohol. Therefore, caution is required if you are going to drive after eating narazuke. However, according to the Health and Medicine of Alcohol Association, it would take approximately 60 narazuke (about 400 grams) with an alcohol content of 5% to reach the legal alcohol limit. Also, according to the experiments conducted by Institute for Traffic Accident Research and Data Analysis, a driving test that was performed at 20 minutes after having 50 grams of narazuke showed breath alcohol content of 0 (zero) and caused no influence on the driving. There are some cases that a driver who was arrested due to drunk driving made a statement as "I ate narazuke" at first, but the later interrogation has revealed that the driver had taken alcoholic beverages.
Narazuke is known among a part of people in the Republic of Korea, since it was brought by Korean residents in Japan and by post-war Korean returnees. In the market and other places, the similar products are sold with the phonetic expression of the Japanese narazuke (ナラヂュケ) in Korean writing system.
In recent years, as a new export item to Japan, suggestion and discussion have been made in such places and occasions as the citizens' college and business seminars under the auspices of the Korean-based "Newspaper for logistics of agriculture and fisheries."