Dried veggies and more (kanbutsu) in The Japan Times

This month's Japanese Kitchen column in the Japan Times is all about kanbutsu (乾物). The word kanbutusu just meands "dried things", and a kanbutsu-ya as I wrote in the article is a traditional store that specializes in dried foodstuffs. While there are all kinds of dried foods, in the article I concentrated on dried vegetables, which are a great source of fiber. The salad featured there has kiriboshi daikon, shredded dried daikon radish in it, which is full of fiber. It has a rather pointed odor when it's dry, but once you soak it in water or blanch it and rinse it, it becomes quite neutral and easy to use. The salad also has cooked dried beans. One type of canned bean that is sold in Japan that I wish was available everywhere is 'dry' canned - the beans are not immersed in liquid, so they're firmer and more versatile. Frozen beans may be better to use for the salad unless you can get this kind of canned bean product (or you can cook your own of course).

Traditional dried vegetables are seeing a small resurgence in popularity in Japan, and becoming handier to use. Here's a handy mix of shredded dried vegetables that my mom sent me - it has dried daikon radish (kiriboshi daikon), carrots, burdock root and hijiki seaweed in it. Since the vegetables are shredded so thinly, I can use it by just soaking it for a few minutes in water and adding to soups and stir fries and such.

dried-shredded-veg.jpg

I wrote about dried vegetables some years ago on these pages - see Dried vegetables. Dried vegetables don't get mentioned that much in Japanese cuisine, but they were an important part of the diet of everyday people for hundreds of years.

I was kind of inspired to write the article by some reactions I got to last month's Japanese Kitchen column, where I wrote about shokupan or sliced white bread. I know...Japanese rice is white as snow, and the most commonly eaten type of Japanese bread is also pure white and devoid of gut-cleansing fiber. (Japanese noodles are mostly made of refined flours too.) While things like brown rice and other fiber-rich main carbs are getting more popular in Japan, most people cling to their pure white fiber-free carbs. Eating brown rice (genmai) or whole wheat type breads is one way to introduce fiber to your diet, but so is adding other fiber-rich products, in the form of fresh and dried or preserved vegetables and fruit, beans and so on.

Eating is all about balance and variety, as is life, right? ^_^

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8 comments so far...

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Re: Dried veggies and more (kanbutsu) in The Japan Times

Dried veggies are great for cooking single portions, jazzing up ramen, and using in recipes that call for small amounts of many different ingredients. They're useful for out-of-season ingredients, and also cut down on spoilage from half-used food items that seem to just rot in the refrigerator.

I order dry or freeze dry veggies in quart containers and just toss some into whatever I'm cooking - rehydration isn't always necessary. Dried cabbage is most useful, no cutting or shredding needed. A handful of freeze dry mushrooms (but not shiitaki) adds a nice touch to most meat and poultry recipes. Tomatoes or tomato powder are great for small quantities - no leftover half tins. Unfortunately, my online merchant doesn't offer daikon, but I'll send them a link to this article - hope it inspires them.

anon. | 25 October, 2013 - 21:48

Re: Dried veggies and more (kanbutsu) in The Japan Times

Nice article.

You've inspired me to try the kiriboshi daikon in my onigiri. I have been looking for something to incorporate into onigiri that would be healthy and high fiber. I know brown rice would be the best thing, but I just haven't been able to make that jump.

kingyo | 25 October, 2013 - 22:06

On off topic request!

Most importantly..I love your blog...
Currently we are in Japan and just had our firs
Mos burger...the Superb Cheeseburger ....would
you have any idea as to the recipe for the
sauce on this burger? It is the brown sauce,
not the meat sauce that I am interested in!

I know this is an odd request..but I remember
your article on brown sauce(Bull Dog) but this
tastes different..I thought you might know the
recipe!

Grazie!

italianchef | 26 October, 2013 - 14:55

Re: On off topic request!

Well, it's not a commercially available sauce...it's a Mos Burger special. I haven't had a cheeseburger at Mos in ages (I usually get a rice burger if I go...) so I'm not too sure what's in it. Maybe next time I'll see if I can taste it. I did see an imitation recipe which guesses that it has tomato, ketchup, onions, mayonnaise and seasonings in it - but I think that's their old formula, and now they use some ginger in the sauce. Maybe you can try recreating it! ^_^

maki | 26 October, 2013 - 18:57

Re: Dried veggies and more (kanbutsu) in The Japan Times

I agree with you balance and variety- this is how you get all your nutrients and it's tasty that way. I would love to give these a try and will look for them in my nearest Japanese market. Thank you for sharing!

PL | 26 October, 2013 - 15:14

Re: Dried veggies and more (kanbutsu) in The Japan Times

Thanks for the comment about balance - I love 'Japanese' style white rice, and get a little bit sick of people acting as though it is some kind of poison. It is all about balance, and as long as your diet is full of variety it is not a problem to eat refined starches. And as we keep reading again and again the traditional Japanese diet is one of the healthiest in the world, and what is eaten at nearly every meal? That evil white rice!

Megami | 28 October, 2013 - 11:51

Re: Dried veggies and more (kanbutsu) in The Japan Times

Does shredded black fungus count? I reconstitute it first, then throw it into the stir-fry, etc. I like the crunch or chewiness.

Sylvia S. B. S. | 30 October, 2013 - 19:51

acorn squash/ mirin

hi maki,

i was wondering, if you or your other readers have a recipe/experience with sauteeing acorn squash. i was at the farmer's market today and i bought an acorn squash, thinking it might be similar to a kabocha. which is not, of course... my oven is broken so i'm looking to sauteeing it or stewing it. maybe with some soy sauce/dashi/mirin?

[also, i was at the japanese grocery and i bought some mirin but i was confused as to what exactly is the difference between "regular" mirin vs. non-alcoholic mirin vs. cooking sake.]

i'm sorry if this is the wrong place to ask this, i didn't see in your blog a message board.

thank you so much for your help.

anggrek

ossubtus | 10 November, 2013 - 05:30

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