Notable Nosh: Edamame

Edamame 1

Edamame, for those unfamiliar, are young green soybeans that are often steamed or boiled and then seasoned before being eaten, frequently as a snack or appetizer. They have been a staple on Japanese restaurant menus in the west for quite a few years now (and the odd Chinese restaurant too), but they are also being increasingly more common in non-Asian restaurants, even being included as appetizers in pubs and the like. So far, though, I have only eaten them in Japanese restaurants.

The ones pictured above were served to me in Ottawa recently and were tossed in butter and then coarse salt before coming to the table. Butter may not sound typically Japanese but, in fact, it is not that uncommon in the cuisine any longer and it certainly does go with the beans. I am not sure if the ones I had on this occasion were steamed or boiled but they were just a little underdone and not quite as tender as others I have had…

Edamame 2

Here you can see the open pod displaying the individual beans. To eat them delicately, one could, I suppose, open the pods and then eat the beans one by one, but that would rather defeat the benefit of the salt, butter, or whatever other seasonings are used. The better, if slightly messier, method is to grasp one end of the pod, put the other in your mouth and then, gripping with your teeth as you pull, squeeze the beans out. That way, you get to suck the seasoning from the pods as you eat.

The taste is… well, bean-like but, when young enough and cooked properly can be pleasantly sweet. To be honest, though, when it comes to eating legumes from the pod, I much prefer raw peas. Soybeans, however, must not be eaten raw as they contain chemical compounds called trypsin inhibitors that make them toxic. Fortunately, cooking them (and ‘wet’ methods like boiling or steaming are required), neutralizes these compounds and makes them safe.

Anyway, if you haven’t eaten these yet, they are worth giving a try. Sometime, I would like to try them with other seasonings (vinegar, parmesan cheese, or chili sauce even) but that may have to wait until they finally find themselves on the store shelves up this way…

14 thoughts on “Notable Nosh: Edamame”

  1. I absolutely LOVE Edamame and its absolutely essential to eat them in the manner John described so that you can taste the seasonings. YUM!

  2. I love edamame. I always keep a bag in the freezer for a quick snack. I sowed some seeds in the garden and I hope to have some fresh beans soon. Isn’t it strange that they are toxic when raw? I’d never have guessed.

    1. How long does it take to grow edamame in your garden? I’m just wondering if I can grow them in the greenhouse up here. Thanks!

  3. Mmmmmm edamame!!! I love them – and yes, I use the “grip pod between teeth and drag outwards so that the peas pop into mouth and seasoning remains on tongue” method. Opening them and removing the peas individually kinda defeats the purpose. The other thing I LOVE at Japanese restaurants is chawan mushi, a savoury custard. It took me a while to get used to it but once I realised it was not supposed to be a dessert, well I just can’t get enough and am heartily dissapointed if the Japanese restaurant I am in does not serve it.

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