Saturday, December 22, 2012

Umeboshi & Shiso

Umeboshi offerings at the Japanese store in Columbus

Umeboshi are extremely sour and salty and look like shriveled plums except they are really a kind of apricot. They are one of my favorite flavors from Japan. I encountered umeboshi in restaurants and quick marts like 7-11, but it took a while before I wrangled my way into the grocery store and bought some. Knowing I liked them didn't mean that I knew what to do with them at home.

On a recent foray into Columbus, I noted the Japanese market Tensuke was stocked with several kinds of umeboshi. Fortunately, I have a stash thanks to a friend in Japan sharing her homemade supply with us, but I couldn't resist snapping a photo and encouraging others to try them.

At the market, I picked up some shiso perilla leaves which I can't find locally. Together umeboshi and shiso are a dynamic duo. The combination is found in all sorts of concoctions in Japan-- sushi, fried fish, and even pasta.

I hope to grow shiso next summer. It's a great addition to all kinds of things like cucumber pickles. The ume tree (prunus mume) will grow in zone 6 (here in Ohio), but I haven't found two spots (to pollinate it I understand you need two) in the yard yet.

Stuff chopped shiso and umeboshi inside your next meal, it might delight you too.

Simple everyday idea for umeboshi:
Chop up (or not) one or two umeboshi, toss the pit, and stuff the mash inside some hot Japanese sticky rice that you have properly washed and cooked to make delicious onigiri rice balls.

It also tastes great as a dip for raw vegetables when mixed with miso. For umemiso chop up a few umeboshi and cook them with a 2/3 cup of miso over low heat to allow the flavors to combine, allow to cool, and serve with raw vegetables for dipping particularly stick cut carrots, seedless cucumber, and daikon white radish.

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