Recently, I had the pleasure of trying four new foods for the first time, and they all happened to be green. They are:
- Umi budō
- Konnyaku sashimi
I’ll start with umi budō, as it’s my favourite (and the rarest). Umi budō means “sea grapes” in Japanese. It’s also known as green cavier or the scientific name caulerpa lentillifera. Umi budō, a beautiful seaweed, grows in Okinawa and in other parts of southeast Asia. It’s difficult to get, even in Japan, but one of our nearby supermarkets recently had it as part of a special Okinawan display. It wasn’t as expensive as I expected: 40 grams for 300 yen (less than $3 US). So, what does it taste like, you might ask? It’s very much caviar-like: when you bite into the gorgeous tiny bubbles, you taste the sea. Salty, yes, which is why 40g goes a long way (plus seaweed is super-lightweight). You can eat it plain, or in salad, or with vinegar, or on rice, or wrapped with nori seaweed. Regardless, it’s amazingly tasty and highly recommended if you ever get the chance to try it.
Konnyaku sashimi is konnnyaku prepared to eaten like sashimi. Yup. Oh, you want more information? Well, konnyaku is made from a taro-like plant (think yam or potato ish), ground up and mixed with water. (More details from the Just Hungry blog, if you’re curious.) It’s popular as a health food, as it has barely any calories and tons of fibre. Careful, though, the texture makes it a choking hazard! It’s used in many traditional dishes in its cooked form. The kind that you cook is usually a purplish, greyish colour. I’ve had konnyaku often, but never in this raw form, eaten as sashimi (that is, a slice of raw something: fish, meat, veggie). It’s green for some reason; not quite sure why. I think seaweed is added for the colour? The raw konnyaku is lighter and thinner than the usual block kind, but it’s definitely still chewy. We ate it dipped in a bit of soy sauce and wasabi, just like you would with fish. I really liked this, but as with konnyaku more generally, I can’t eat more than a few pieces at a time because of the texture.
Soramame means “sky beans”, and apparently they’re the same as fava or broad beans. They’re in season in Japan in spring, so I wanted to take advantage while they’re in the grocery stores. The beans can be used many different ways, but we just grilled them in the pods until the outside was a bit toasted and then popped out the beans and ate them with a tiny bit of matcha (green tea powder) salt. They’re similar to edamame, but obviously bigger and more like lima beans in taste and texture.
Goya is another famous food from Okinawa, also known as bitter gourd. Yeah, it’s definitely bitter, but I enjoy “green” tastes, so I really liked it. We used the blanching method described on the wonderful Just Hungry blog, quickly boiling the goya before using it in a stir fry. Goya seems to be around in the grocery stores a fair bit, so I will buy it again!