Enjoy a Healthy and Delicious Summer -Traditional and Talked about Japanese Foods-

Summer has finally hit Adelaide. Compared to the humidity of Japan, it might be a little more comfortable but the heat still reduces your appetite and leaves your nutrition out of balance. So why not make the most of the foods and condiments that have been passed down through the ages in Japan to live healthily this hot summer!

When you are talking about traditional Japanese foods, you can’t go past umeboshi (pickled Japanese plums). It is an obvious fact that they are healthy, but the plum vinegar that is made as part of the umeboshi pickling process (which is different from other vinegars made from fruit and grains) can be used in many ways making it a condiment that you can’t ignore. Make the most of the foods listed here and you’re guaranteed to have a rich menu increasing your appetite this summer.

 

Umeboshi

The fruit of the ume (often known as the Japanese plum, but more closely related to the apricot) is pickled in salt for a number of days before being sun dried then preserved in white ume vinegar with shiso (perilla) leaves to make umeboshi, a preserved food that can be stored for a long time. They are very salty making them great to eat with rice and other foods.

Benefits:

• Assist in the recovery of fatigue/increase appetite  

   Keeps blood sugar levels from rising, and promotes the secretion of saliva, assisting digestion.

• Reduce fever  

   There is a traditional remedy to squash umeboshi and stick them to your forehead to reduce fever.

• Prevent bacteria & decay  

   Putting them in your bento lunchbox or in onigiri (rice balls) will prevent spoilage.

• Assist in the recovery of food/water poisoning  

   Prevents abnormal fermentation in your intestines and bowel.

• Reduce signs of aging  

   Thins the blood and increases the bodies ability to absorb calcium.  

 

Ways to use and cook with umeboshi

• Ume jam and ume salad dressing

• Sardines simmered with umeboshi

Remove the scales, head, tail and intestines from the sardine and cut it in half along the back. Heat some soy sauce, sake (rice wine), sugar, and water in a saucepan then add the sardines, some ginger and umeboshi. Cover with some cooking paper and simmer over a moderate heat. The umeboshi works to reduce the ‘fishy smell’ of the sardines.

• Daikon radish with umeboshi

Slice the daikon radish thinly then cut the circles into quarters. Sprinkle with salt and massage to remove excess moisture. Give them a quick rinse and then squeeze the water off. Finely chop up some umeboshi then mix them with the soft daikon radish.  

 

 

 Ume Vinegar

Ume vinegar is the liquid that is naturally produced during the pickling of umeboshi. As it is not created through fermentation, it is different to regular brewed vinegars in that it does not contain acetic acids. Instead it is packed with other organic acids including malic acid, citric acid and polyphenol. When ume are pickled in salt, firstly clear ‘white ume vinegar’ is produced. After adding the red shiso (perilla) leaves ‘red ume vinegar’ is made. Packed with nutritional value, ume vinegar can be used to easily make pickles and is the perfect health-food for a hot summer.

Benefits:  

Filled with all the nutrients of ume, ume vinegar has many health benefits. It contains particularly high levels of the strong antioxidants citric acid and polyphenol.

• Prevent high blood pressure

   Ume vinegar contains salt, and this salt is extremely effective in keeping blood pressure down.

• Diet    

   Vinegar increases the body’s ability to absorb calcium. Experimental evidence exists to support the idea that calcium and vinegar together result in    suppressing the accumulation of body fat.

• Anti-oxidising action   

   Ume contains the antioxidant polyphenol. Interacting with the anti-oxidising powers of citric acid, these work to vigorously break down the active oxidants in our bodies.

 

Ways to use and cook with ume vinegar

Pickles

<Eggplant, cucumber, or turnip quick pickles>
After sprinkling thinly sliced eggplant, cucumber, or turnip with ume vinegar, lightly massage them and then pickle in the remaining ume vinegar.

<Pickled garlic>   
Peel garlic, cut it into small chunks, and then pickle it in ume vinegar.

• Salad

Mix ume vinegar with vegetable oil and pepper then pour over your salad. You can also mix a little ume vinegar with store bought French dressing to give a ume-vinegar-flavour.

• Fried rice

Fry some rice up with small amounts of ume vinegar and soy sauce.

• Sōmen noodle dipping sauce

Add ume vinegar and fish stock to noodle dipping sauce then bring it to the boil before letting it cool.

 

 

Shio-kōji

Shio-kōji, salted rice with kōji bacteria, has recently become one of Japan’s most popular all-purpose condiments. There has been a great increase in the products on supermarket shelves that contain this product, as well as the number of recipe web sites using it.

Compared to the West where fermented foods have been mainly those of dairy products and meat, the Orient has mainly used special fermenting methods using kōji bacteria to ferment ingredients such as beans and grains. At first glance, shio-kōji looks similar to amazake (sweet sake made from rice), the rice starch in shio-kōji is converted to sugar and the consequential sweetness and saltiness mixes to create a subtly salty sweetness.

By simply marinating meat or fish in shio-kōji they not only become more tender, the proteins and starches they contain are broken down into sugars and amino acids which bring out their flavour. Actually, shio-kōji is not a new ingredient, it is a traditional condiment that has been used to pickle vegetables and fish for many years. Because of its unbiased complimenting to all ingredients and its ability to be used in cooking styles from all countries, shio-kōji has become known as an all-purpose condiment.

Stir-frying or shallow-frying foods that have been pickled in shio-kōji gives a delicious looking gloss which works to stimulate your appetite even when it is hot and your appetite is low.  

 Benefits:

Shio-kōji’s benefits have recently been reconsidered leading to a boom in popularity. The fermentation process not only brings out the flavour of the raw ingredients, it is also believed to have numerous other benefits to your health.

• Recovery of fatigue

   The enzymes in kōji not only increase the decomposition of foods, it also promotes the metabolism of the brain through the activity of microorganisms such as lactic acid bacteria and yeast. It is also believed that this leads to the recovery of fatigue through an abundance of vitamins B1, B2, B6, pantothenic acid, and biotin (vitamin H).

• Reduce signs of aging, improved skin

   It is believed that kōji neutralises the active oxidants in our bodies, reducing the signs of aging and balancing the condition of the intestines leading to more beautiful skin.

• Decreased stress levels

   It is believed that the large amounts of citric acids in kōji’ lead to a reduction in stress levels.

 

 

Shiono-kōji-kun

In Fukui prefecture, known as the great power of shio-kōji, there is a character called ‘Shiono-kōji-kun’, created by a designer from Fukui city. He has become a popular character for his warm, relaxed energy.

Here's to a Healthy and Delicious Year!

 

Photography assistance: LITTLE TOKYO