When it comes to permeation into Western media and market share gain, few Japanese foods have achieved the level of recognition enjoyed by sushi, hibachi, and ramen. However, amidst these popular items, there is one unassuming product that has managed to find its way into almost every supermarket in the United States: edamame. These vibrant green soybeans, sold both in their pods and shucked, have become a staple in Japanese restaurants and home kitchens alike.
While edamame is often used as a shorthand for Japanese soybeans, this isn't quite correct. Edamame is actually the name of the soybean dish where said beans are boiled or steamed inside their pods, lightly salted, and served. If the beans have already been removed from their pods, they are referred to as mukimame. Nevertheless, most commonly, both are simply labeled as edamame.
To achieve the familiar vivid green color associated with edamame, the soybeans need to be harvested at an early stage. Young soybeans retain their vibrant green hue, while mature or processed soybeans often appear brown or black, depending on the bean variety.
However, there is an exception to this rule—the Japanese soybean variety known as aodaizu (青大豆 [あおだいず]). Aodaizu, or blue soybeans, maintain their bright green color even after processing. Along with their distinct green appearance, aodaizu soybeans boast a sweeter taste compared to many other varieties. Unfortunately, cultivating these soybeans is relatively challenging, and are found primarily in Japan's Tohoku region, specifically in Miyagi, Fukushima, Yamagata, and Niigata prefectures. Aodaizu beans play a significant role in the New Year's osechi dish called "Hiyashi-mame" and can even be found in certain varieties of zunda-mochi, a signature confectionery from Miyagi prefecture. While rare, aodaizu soybeans are a versatile and unique addition to the pantry of anyone seeking to add variety to their meals.
About the author:
Michael is originally from Chicago, IL in the United States, but has lived in Japan for seven years in Niigata and Hokkaido. He is an avid home chef, baker, and coffee enthusiast, but his one true love is ramen. Ever in pursuit of the perfect bowl of noodles, you can always find him by listening for the tell-tale slurp of ramen being enjoyed!