Japanese recipe: Namasu

Recipe for Namasu

Namasu is often served at Japanese meals as a side dish and at Japanese izakaya (Japanese-style pub) as a beer or sake chaser. While it is most popular in summer, it is not unusual to see it gracing meal tables year-round. This recipe is a general recipe used by housewives which can be altered to suit individual tastes.

Serves 2.


  • long Japanese style cucumbers: 2 cucumbers (reduce to 1 cucumber if using the American variety)
  • boiled octopus tentacles: 2 tentacles (3 if the tentacles are scrawny)*
  • vinegar (rice vinegar): 3 tablespoons (add more for a tangier taste)
  • sugar: 1 teaspoonful
  • soy sauce (shoyu): 1 tablespoonful
  • ajinomoto (monosodium glutamate) a dash*
  • salt: 1/2 teaspoonful
  • sesame seeds*
  • dried kelp (wakame) cut into 2cm or about 3/4 inch squares-15 to 20 squares*

  • *indicates ingredients which can be left out if desired

    1. Wash and slice the cucumbers into thin slices (about 2mm or 1/16 inch thickness) . If using a large sized American cucumber, you might want to cut the slices into halves.

    2. If you are adding dried kelp, then put the kelp into a bowl of water to rehydrate it.

    3. Sprinkle salt on the cucumbers and gently rub it in.

    4. Cut the octopus legs into thin slices (about 20mm or about 3/4 inch slices).

    5. Combine the vinegar, soy sauce, and sugar in a bowl. Stir while sprinkling in a dash of ajinomoto.

    6. Press the cucumber slices between your palms to remove excess water. Do not squash.

    7. Add the cucumbers to the mixture in the bowl.

    8. Check to make sure that the kelp has become soft. Remove kelp and pat it between your palms to remove excess water.

    9. Add the kelp to the mixture in the bowl. Stir lightly.

    10. Remove from bowl and place in serving dish. A clear, low glass dish is usually used in Japanese households.

    12. Chill in refrigerator (15-30 minutes).

    11. Top by sprinkling sesame seeds lightly over the namasu before serving.

    Copyright, A.E.L.S., Inc., 1997. Text written by Billy Hammond.