I’m a firm believer that one of the best ways to become well acquainted with a new culture is by immersing yourself in the culinary culture. While Japanese food such as sushi may be accessible from London to Buenos Aires, how often do you have the opportunity to try out traditional Japanese food? I’m not talking about street food such as yakitori or ramen, I’m talking about the kind of Japanese food grandmothers eat on a daily basis. If you’re willing to try out traditional Japanese food, why not start with the ultimate staple food: pickled plums. Pickled plums are made by a long pickling and sun-drying process and this creates a peculiar flavor of salty and sour. You’ll be guaranteed not to forget the taste of this pickle!
The history of pickled plums
The origin of pickled plums can be traced all the way back to the Nara period (ad 710-794). Before the invention of pickled plums, ume plums were consumed raw like a fruit. During the medieval periods, samurais started caring around pickled plum as a pick-me-up food during battles or when they needed to purify water. It was in the Edo period (ad 1603 – 1867) when it began to spread throughout the country as a common food. By the end of the Edo period, a cholera outbreak occurred and caused a deadly disaster. It didn’t take long until people started realizing that pickled plums can be effective in boosting a high immunity and it became a necessity to prevent cholera. Over time, pickled plums became increasingly popular for its many health benefits and to this day, it remains a staple food in Japanese households.
Creative ways to eat pickled plums
If you have ever been inside a convenience store in Japan, I’m sure you have witnessed an aisle full of neatly displayed triangle shaped rice balls. Rice balls are often eaten as snacks or meals and are consumed by kids to elderly people as they are healthy, portable and delicious. According to a national survey conducted on rice ball fillings, pickled plums are the second most popular in Japan. As eating rice on its own can be quite bland, rice with pickled plums have long been considered a classic combination. Although there’s nothing that beats the combination of a bowl of rice and pickled plums, there are many ways to use this versatile healthy food. Pickled plums can be used as a salad dressing, as an ingredient for pasta sauce or even on top of ice cream.
Japanese-style cocktail with pickled plums
What better time than summer to try out a new cocktail? Heat the beat with this simple tasty cocktail!
＜Ingredients＞※servings for 1
・3 oz of champagne
・1 pickled plum
・1 teaspoon of honey
・Ice (depending on preference)
1.Take the seed out of the pickled plum, place it in the glass, and muddle the pickled plum.
2.Slide in a block of ice and add honey and champagne.
The price of pickled plums can go up to ¥100,000
Pickled plums for the most part, are considered to be pretty accessible. You can get your hands on a pack starting from the price point of ¥200, but did you know that the price for a pot of pickled plums can go up as much as ¥100,000? Meaning one pickled plum can cost you more than ¥3,000! The price may seem outrageous when you consider the fact that even a piece of chocolate from the luxury chocolate brand Pierre Marcolini costs well under ¥400. So, what makes this pickled plum so special? Well, it’s only made once in 12 years! Apparently, this extravagant pickled plum is only made from plums harvested in the year of the monkey. In ancient Japanese folklore, there was a belief that pickled plums harvested in the year of the monkey brought fortune and people would put these plums in their teas in the beginning of the year to wish for a good year. This expensive pickled plum will come in a beautiful ceramic pot and shavings of gold leaf will be adorned on the top. If you find yourself some extra money lying around in 2028 (the next year of the monkey), why not treat yourself?
Top Images by ＠sayo ts