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Japan's Healthiest Vegetables

Photo: Jeff Laitila on Flickr

Japan's Healthiest Vegetables

Vi Phan

Japanese dishes are very healthy because they are made from the harmonious combination of seasonal vegetables. Besides the local types of vegetables, other types of vegetables that Japanese people often eat in daily meals are from all over Asia.

Cabbage (Kyabetsu)


Cabbage is a very cheap but multifunctional type of vegetables, often cooked with main dishes to supplement vitamins or enhance the flavor. Cabbage is often thinly sliced and served with korokke, tonkatsu or other deep-fried dishes. It's also an indispensable ingredient in Okonomiyaki.  Japan is one of leading countries in cultivating and consuming cabbage, always sold in Japanese supermarkets in great quantities.

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I Believe I Can Fry on Flickr

Chinese or Napa Cabbage (Hakusai)


Chinese cabbage is a very popular type of vegetable in Asia. For example, in Korea, Chinese cabbage is used to make kimchi, a spicy, fermented dish very famous all around the world. In Japan, Hakusai is often fermented as a type of pickle called "Hakusai-no-sokusekizuke" but its sour taste is milder than kimchi's. Also, fresh hakusai is a favorite ingredient in most of Japanese-style hot pots (nabe).

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I Believe I Can Fry on Flickr

Spinach (Horenso)


Spinach is Japanese people's favorite type of vegetables because they think it's very good to their health. It contains a lot of vitamins and minerals, especially calcium and iron. One of very common dishes made from horenso is horenso-no-goma-ae (boiled spinach mixed with sesame sauce). Horenso is mixed with sweet soy sauce and sesame sauce after being dipped in the boiled water.  It is also often used as toppings in soup.

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Tracy27 on Flickr

Japanese mustard spinach (Komatsuna)


Japanese mustard spinach is primarily cultivated and consumed in Japan, China, Taiwan and Korea.  Like horenso, komatsuna is green and contains a lot of vitamins but its taste is not as bitter.  Japanese people often eat boiled komatsuna sprinkled with okatsuboshi and use boiled komatsuna water to stew other ingredients.

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Seacoast Eat Local on Flickr

Japanese spider mustard (mizuna)


Mizuna is a main ingredient in salad dishes. It's often served with daikon in fresh salad dishes. Besides, mizuna can be added into soup, hot pots or used for food arrangement.

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Jenny Hones on Flickr

Radish (Daikon)


Like cabbage, radish is also a very popular type of vegetables in Japanese cuisine. Daikon is often thinly sliced (served with sashimi), grated (served with grilled fish or tempura) or well boiled in soup, hot pots, or stewed dishes. Daikon is also a main ingredient of oden.  Daikon pickles or takuan is a favorite of Japanese people.  Some eat it almost everyday.

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Jeff Laitila on Flickr

Sweet potatoes (Satsumaimo)


Sweet potatoes are largely cultivated in Kagoshima.  Japanese people use sweet potatoes to cook dishes or make cakes. It is said that the most delicious way to enjoy Japanese sweet potatoes is to grill them (yakiimo). The scent of grilled sweet potatoes floating in the air makes Japanese autumn and winter very nostalgic. One more delicious dish with sweet potatoes is sweet potato tempura, very sweet and crispy.

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Timothy Takemoto on Flickr

Great burdock (Gobou)


Great burdock can be found everywhere in the world but the type of gobou whose root is used as vegetables is only cultivated in Asia. Gobou is about 1-2 meter long.  It is always well cooked before eating. It is often added in soup.  Kinpira gobou is a tasty dish which includes thinly sliced carrot and gobou fried with soy sauce, sugar and sake (Japanese rice wine).

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fitkitchen on Flickr

Onion


Japan is also a dominant country in producing onion in the world and of course it is used in many Japanese dishes. Onion is often well cooked before being served and is a necessary ingredient in Japanese curry, donburi (rice served with different types of toppings) and hot pots.  Tamanegi is added in miso soup or grilled together with meat in a dish called teppanyaki (meat grilled on a iron plate).

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Jim Lightfoot on Flickr

Bamboo shoots (Takenoko)


In Japan, bamboo shoots are a symbol of spring.  Takenoko literaly means "the child of a bamboo tree".  Takenoko is harvested before it buds out of the ground. Bamboo shoots can be grilled, cooked with rice, deep-fried or stewed with other ingredients.

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juliegever on Flickr

Japanese green onion (negi)


Negi is mainly sprinkled on soups or on donburi such as gyudon (beef rice) or added into dipping sauce served with Japanese noodles. There are different types of green onion in different regions. However, the two most popular types of negi are Kanto negi (long, white root) and Kansai negi (mostly green root).

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Timothy Takemoto on Flickr

Tomato


Japanese people often use tomatoes in western style dishes such as spaghetti, salad or for food arrangement. There are so many types of tomatoes in different colors.  Japanese tomatoes are often grown in green houses and become sweeter than tomatoes from other countries.  That's why compared to other types of fruits, tomatoes are sold at higher prices. 

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Cucumber (Kyuuri)


Japanese cucumbers are smaller than western cucumbers and can be eaten directly without being peeled. Cucumbers are an ingredient of salad dishes or fermented as a type of pickle. In the past, cucumbers are considered as a symbolic type of summer vegetable.

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I Believe I Can Fry on Flickr

Eggplants (Nasu)


Japanese eggplants are smaller but less bitter than North American and European eggplants.  Nasu is an important ingredient in Japanese cuisine and used in many dishes. "Nasu dengaku" is a typical dish made with nasu.  A common dish is to cut it in halves, cover with miso (fermented soy bean paste) and grill it.  Fry it with onion and season it with miso and sugar fro a tasty treat.

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Jun Seita on Flickr

Green peppers (piman)


Piman is a loan word from the word "Le piment" in French.  Japanese green peppers are smaller, thinner but sweeter than Western bell peppers.  Piman is used to make salad, tempura or fry with other ingredients (like Chinese style dishes).

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jeffreyw on Flickr

Pumpkin (Kabocha)


Pumpkin season is in the autumn and winter. With the high content of vitamin A, pumpkin is an important type of vegetables in the long winters. Japanese people eat kabocha to enhance their immunization against the severe weather during the long winters when it's not easy to find other types of vegetables. Kabocha is often deep-fried (tempura) or boiled with mirin (Japanese sweet cooking wine) and soy sauce.

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Jérôme Decq on Flickr

Corn (Tomorokoshi)


Japanese corn is widely planted in Hokkaido but the production is not enough to meet domestic customers' demand. Therefore, both fresh corn and canned corn are imported from the U.S.  Japanese people often grill corn coated with butter or soy sauce. Corn is an ingredient in many Hokkaido specialties such as Hokkaido noodles and Hokkaido miso soup.

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karendotcom127 on Flickr