If you ever needed an excuse to lust over the majestic forests and cultural wonders of Japan, the cuisine would be your golden ticket!
We are getting so excited for our upcoming trip, but in the meantime I have heard and read and seen Japan everywhere lately. Though this isn’t where we are jetting off to, luckily for us, we don’t need to venture far to reap the benefits of these Japanese staples in our diet. If you needed an excuse, “feast” your eyes on my top five!
1. Matcha is to the Japanese what coffee & bacon are to North Americans
- The Japanese loooove their matcha! It finds its way into just about everything and it’s a good thing too, as this brilliant green powder packs a big nutritional punch.
- Matcha offers moderate amounts of caffeine balanced with calming l-theanine for an energizing boost without the coffee crash. Utilizing the whole tea leaves by grinding them into a powder, it’s a more potent source of catechins (an antioxidant compound known as polyphenols) than your standard green tea.
|| Above : Unsweetened matcha tea latte with almond milk||
2. Get cultured
- Fermented foods such as kimchi are staples in Japan and should ideally be features of every culture. Why? Fermented/cultured foods are rich in wholefood sourced probiotics, energizing B-vitamins and natural enzymes to enhance digestion and promote mental, physical and emotional well-being – no “zen garden” necessary!
3. Soba Your Pasta
- Soba buckwheat noodles are roughly the size of your standard spaghetti and made of buckwheat flour. They are commonly used in Japanese pasta dishes, piled high with fresh vegetables and drizzled with a light sauce (as opposed to smothered – the Western way).
- I LOVE these and you can experiment with traditional pasta sauce, or enjoy the flavour when tossed simply with coconut oil, sea salt and loaded with vegetables or as a tahini based pad Thai as featured below. When savoring Soba at a restaurant, be sure to ask if they are gluten-free.
4. Authentic sushi (of course!)
- This goes without saying; you just can’t have a Japanese cuisine post without the mention of sushi. BUT! And this is a big but ; for all of us sushi lovers, we need to be adamant about sourcing. The seafood commonly used in restaurants is high in toxins (particularly mercury), can be contaminated with parasites and utilize inhumane fishing practices. Think: “The Greatest Catch,” documentary.
- In Japan (and everywhere), look not to the big sushi houses but small, intimate dinning experiences, often more expensive and not “all-you-can-eat,” that offer sustainably caught seafood and quality sushi. The REAL sushi you deserve to experience!
And on the subject of anti- “all-you-can-eat…”
5. Hara Hashi Bu
- This is not a food per se, but a WAY to eat that will skip the sushi coma conundrum and keep you feeling healthy, vibrant, and ready for your next meal. Read more here.
To our future Japanese journeys,
It was just last month I said in passing; “I miss performing in musicals, I just want to go back and do it all over again.” And just like that, I found myself back in highschool!
Photo by Nick Mirka of Mitchell Reilly Pictures
I was nostalgically cast away on stage for an alumni number with fellow leads from previous years in the musical theatre performance of “Anything Goes.” And what a surreal experience it was!
Did you SEA it?
Whether you had front row seats or are just catching word of this now, a cheeky post had to follow and in the spirit of World Water Day, what better way than to hit on the high notes of sea veggies?
Rich in iodine for thyroid health, containing nearly all of the minerals present in the ocean (many of the same minerals found in human blood), and potent in antioxidants, if these aren’t yet a part of your daily diet, they should be!
Here is everything you need to know to incorporate my 3 favourite veggies of the sea:
- We first stumbled upon this on our road trip to the Grand Manan Islands in New Brunswick. Fresh dulse was spread over tarps in long rows across the ground to dry out. There was a local gift shop where I purchased this dulse in dried strips, flakes, and even made into hard candy.
- What it is: Dulce is technically a red seaweed though it can appear purple and resembles red, leafy lettuce.
- How To Use It: With a salty taste, and a sea-like flavour, it creates a wonderful seasoning to dishes, particularly those with elements of seafood. Due to its natural salty qualities, it is often used as a replacement to sea salt. I sprinkle it liberally on salads, stirfrys, omelets and the Arctic Char fish dish we enjoy every Sunday. Though an acquired taste, perhaps, I can’t get enough!
- What it is: If you’re a sushi lover, you’re already well acquainted with the thin, paper like sheets of nori that wrap around your favourite sushi roll. These sheets come raw (for the maximum health benefits) or the traditional toasted. Raw wraps will be most commonly located at your local health food store.
- How to use it: Fill them up with any number of combinations such as tahini with avocado and veggies or make sushi rolls with quinoa/millet and your favourite additions. It works best if what you are putting in the wraps is warm as this allows the sheets to soften and adhere.
~ Above: Home-rolled avocado & mango quinoa sushi ~
- What it is: Kelp is a brown sea algae which standard “green” chlorophyl colour is masked by a reddish, brownish hue. Brown sea veggies contain higher levels of iodine and therefore, a little goes a long way when boosting thyroid health.
- How to use it: Soak it and slice it into strips to use on salads, stirfrys or lightly saute it in a frying pan for wraps.
As they are derived from the sea, toxicity is a concern but these veggies are highly beneficial when sourced organically and sustainably. It is also important to note that for the biggest boost of benefits, they should not be cooked as much of the iodine will leach into the water.
From sushi to salads, give seaveggies a shot and get creative. Afterall, in the world of seaweeds: Anything Goes!