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Living Close to the Veg

August 1, 2016

Page 2

Pleased to Eat You

Japanese cuisine boasts a range of vegetables, or yasai, that are perfectly common in this country but may seem exotic to the uninitiated.

Root vegetables include the yama-imo family. When raw, these relatives of the yam have a cool, crisp texture reminiscent of Japanese pear, but high levels of sticky mucin proteins mean that grating these tubers produces tororo, a viscous white puree that is often served over steamed rice.

Renkon (lotus root) has holes running through it that produce a distinctive "wagon wheel" appearance when sliced. Other popular roots include satsuma-imo (sweet potato) and its purple-fleshed cousin the murasaki-imo, as well as sato-imo (taro root), gobo (burdock root), and daikon (giant white radish).

One common leafy green is hakusai (Chinese cabbage). A staple in many East-Asian cuisines (especially Korean, where it is a common ingredient of kimchi), in Japan the large, crinkly fronds are often encountered as pickles or in nabe hot pots.

Among other slightly wacky-looking vegetables, there is takenoko (bamboo shoot), which may look intimidatingly woody but is pleasingly tender when steamed or boiled, and goya (bitter gourd), a warty-looking vegetable that brings its bracing astringency to many Okinawan dishes.

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