Japanese cuisine – full of beans

Tuesday 28th, July 2015 / 15:27 Written by
Japanese cuisine – full of beans

Tofu, edamame, miso soup, natto. Which food haven’t you tried at one of the Japanese restaurants or sushi bars in food courts? I bet it is the last one. What is the common ingredient among them? Beans. Not coffee beans but soy beans.

edamameEda-mame literally means ‘branch (twig) beans’. They are easily grown 枝豆in Japanese soils, often found planted in between rice paddies. Branches are harvested while still young and green, and plucked pods are lightly boiled as a whole, either in salted water or sprinkled with salt later when you eat them. Popping beans from pods into your mouth is great fun and very moreish, and of course super healthy, which makes it suitable for snacks for alcohol drinkers and children alike.  You will find them boiled, frozen and packed in Japanese and Asian grocery shops.

agedashiYou know tofu, don’t you?  Did you know that miso paste, which is often misoused for soup, is made from soy beans, too? It is made from fermenting soy beans, and I don’t believe anyone will be put off by its look nowadays…

Natto (pronounced Nut-taw) is sold frozen in small packets in Japanese grocery shops, but most people don’t know what it is like, let alone what it tastes like. One customer asked me if it was a kind of tofu, but no, far from it. An American friend of mine described it as ‘rotten’. Slimy and smelly, you either love it or hate it. My children love it, but many Japanese people simply can’t stand it, so you are allowed to hate it. Again it is super healthy, and it is effective for thinning blood. We have supplements containing the enzyme, nattokinase.納豆

Soy milk is also popular in Japan, sometimes with green tea flavour. According to some research soy products may contribute to the low rate of breast cancer among Japanese women. C’mon, isn’t there anything unhealthy made from soy?  Ummm…

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