I am addicted to pickled rakkyo. Half small onion and half garlic tsukemono, rakkyo is a crunchy delight that you can prepare easily at home. The end of May is the official rakkyo pickling season, so let's get pickling!
Ask any Japanese person and they will tell you that spring is the season of bamboo shoots, or takenoko. I fell in love with freshly made takenoko spring rolls last year and I tried to learn more about this odd vegetable. There is a good chance that you will find some in your school lunch this spring, probably in the form of bamboo shoots rice. Cooked takenoko is available all year in ready-to-serve portions at pretty much any supermarket, but I want to share with you the technique to prepare these shoots from scratch. Bamboo shoots are impressive looking vegetables, and they’re not something familiar in the American kitchen.
Wondering what to do with that big pile of persimmons a co-worker gave you? Drying persimmons is super easy and they're really delicious! Here's how to do it.
It’s daikon season folks! Daikon, or Japanese radish, will always mysteriously find its way onto your plate, be it in a sushi shop’s fancy stringy garnish or the oden tub next to the cash register in pretty much any konbini in Japan. It’s also a school lunch favorite. Like it or not, you are probably eating daikon almost everyday or at least every week. This Halloween, I went to the Sera Daikon Festival, where I saw just how much Japanese fancy their daikon. Fall is the season when the vegetable is firmest and sweetest.
Late summer is the prime season to eat kabocha. This green Japanese pumpkin is actually a winter squash very similar to the American buttercup squash. The deep orange flesh of the kabocha is sweet and can be used in numerous recipes. You will often see long and thin slices of kabocha in vegetable tempura alongside the onions and mushrooms.
While it is possible, living in Japan, to purchase imported foods to cook some dishes that remind you of your home country, it can be inconvenient and expensive. Learning to cook some of the unfamiliar vegetables you see temporarily grace the supermarket shelves as the seasons pass, however, brings its own sense of satisfaction and introduces you to new aspects of food culture in Japan.
The first vegetable to be featured in the “Seasonal Eating in Japan” series is goya. Also known as bitter gourd or bitter melon, goya comes into season in summer. It is grown all over Asia and is a staple food of Okinawa. This warty green vegetable resembles a cucumber with some kind of skin disease, and eaten raw its taste isn’t much better that its looks; it is probably one of the most bitter vegetables in the world. Goya needs to be cooked to be edible, and some people say it’s an acquired taste. Judge for yourself with this easy recipe for goya chanpuru, a stir-fried dish that is a specialty of Okinawa.
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