Natto – One of the Healthy Food in Japan

Posted June 23rd, 2010 in Food | 4 Comments »

This could be one of the weird food you can find around the world…  Natto, fermented soy beans, is a traditional Japanese staple for more than 1,000 years.  Non Japanese people may think it’s a gross-looking food as it has a strong smell, flavor and slippery texture.  But, it is an ultimate health food as its medical benefits are widely recognized recently : some of its beneficial effects are prevention of heart attacks, strokes, cancer, osteoporosis, obesity and intestinal disease caused by pathogens.

How did Japan discover this food??  I remember reading a story of it when I was little.  Long time ago, when samurais are still rolling Japan, a group of samurais were travelling quite a long distance.  They brought some food for the journey, and one of the food was soy beans.  The soy beans were carried in a bag made of some kind of plant.  As it was summer and the climate was pretty hot and humid, the soy beans started to ferment in the bag.  Around lunch time, samurais decided to take a break and they all opened up the food to enjoy.  Then they found out the all soy beans looked strange – smelly, and slimy!  They were so disappointed, but one samurai pinched one bean and put in his mouth.  It turned out to be edible.  “Oh well, we might not be able to make to the destination in this climate and not enough water.  We may die soon…  may as well eat these rotten soy beans.”  They ate up the rotten soy beans.  But, strangely, after eating the beans they felt their body full of energy and strong again.

That was the origin of natto, according to my memory 😀  Now we normally eat natto with tare (sauce), and dress up with Japanese mustard, bonito flakes, mayonnaise, seaweed etc etc.

I like eating natto in the morning – just with freshly cooked steamed rice and miso soup.  This morning I made colourful miso soup with few ingredients including carrot, wakame, konnyaku and tofu.  Can any other food beat this healthy combination?

Okinawan Food

Posted May 25th, 2010 in Japan | 4 Comments »

While I was in Japan few months ago, there was a tv show featuring the healthy diet taken by Miss Universe candidates.  Erica Angyal, who is from Sydney Australia, is a nutritionist who works for Miss Universe Japan as a health consultant, and on the tv show she flew to Okinawa to discover what is so good about Okinawan food and why people in Okinawa live longer than anyone else in the world.

Okinawa is one of Japan’s southern prefectures, and consists of hundreds of islands in a chain over 1,000 km long.

It was only 100 years ago that the kingdom of Okinawa was incorporated into Japan, and the southern islands still maintain their own distinctive culture, language and cuisine. Okinawan cooking tends toward stronger and spicier flavors than Japanese food, and is more heavily influenced by Chinese cooking styles.

I’d say Okinawa has the strongest accent in their language as Japanese among all the prefectures in Japan.  Osaka people speak Osaka dialect, and Fukuoka people speak Fukuoka dialect.  Some of them are very difficult to listen to, but still understandable.  But, Okinawan language is very different!  That’s what makes this place to be a popular tourist destination for other Japanese people.  Different culture, different life style, and different food.  But, still the same country.

The food you see in Okinawa often contain pork and seafood.  Pork is a very important ingredient there, and every part of the pig is used: including feet, ears to tripes.  And, because Okinawa has a tropical climate and is surrounded by ocean, many local seafoods and seaweeds are used in cooking, and some of them are not available in Japan’s main island.

Other foods that are commonly used in Okinawan cuisine are black sugar, tropical fruits and vegetables, brawn rice, and awamori, which is an Okinawan brandy-like liquor made from rice.  Okinawan people are known as big drinkers! (awamori is very strong alcohol drink)

The reason why Okinawan people are the most long-lived on earth is not only these food.  It’s because of HOW people eat them everyday.  Their everyday meal contains rice, soup, and few side dishes.  There are many vegetables, seaweed and seafood used, and the common cooking method is stir-frying.  They use olive oil very often too.  Eating many kinds of food everyday is very ideal thing in order to take different nutritions.  Besides, most of the food they eat are very healthy – seaweeds are good for skin and hair, brown rice is more nutritious than white rice, and seafood gives you Omega-3 which can help to lower the amount of cholesterol in the body.

I’ve been to Okinawa twice in my life:  the first time was to join the home-stay program at American family in Okinawa vase.  I was 17 years old, and I organised everything by myself …  all  my family was so worried, but I wasn’t.  I had a big interest in foreign country (English) and wanted to experience something unique.  The second time was to get scuba diving licence in Okinawa.  I organised this by myself too, I even bought some equipments for the trip including dry suit and an under-water camera. :p

While in Okinawa, I enjoyed Okinawan food everyday.  There are few small restaurants around the hotel I stayed, and these restaurants served home-style Okinawan food.   Very delicious!   Typical Okinawan food such as chanpuru dishes including tofu chanpuru and go-ya chanpuru, and rafuti (pork stewed in miso, soy sauce, sugar and awamori).

If you get a chance to visit this “health paradise”, here are the list of Okinawan food I recommend! :

Tofu chanpuru – stir-fried tofu dish

Go-ya chanpuru – stir-fried go-ya (bitter melon) dish

Rafuti – slow cooked, stewed pork

Taco rice – basically a taco that uses rice instead of a taco shell.

Mimigaa – pig’s ear in vinegar

Saataa andagi – Okinawan doughnuts

(photos from Kinki Tourist and Okinawa Council websites)

The Raw Food and Smoothie Bar

Posted May 23rd, 2010 in Eat out in Perth | No Comments »

After reading the reviews of The Raw Kitchen, I was excited to try out their food at Raw Food and Smoothie Bar in Fremantle Markets.  All the food they serve there are raw (uncooked), including sweet nuts and chocolate balls and delicious pizza.

When I arrived the stall, the owner couple (I believe) looked so busy as there was a line of people waiting to order.  The hand-written menu board, the showcase of ready-made food and the cook books of healthy food arranged on the top of the counter.. although the shop is small, everything around there looked so simple and natural.

As my turn came, I ordered one of their “raw” smoothie, Bananarama, which contains fresh banana, almond milk etc.  He opened the fridge and put a couple of banana and some ingredient into a blender, and few seconds later my smoothie was done!

Wow..  it looked so thick!  Freshly made with real banana…

I loved the taste, I must say.  Especially, knowing that there is no “unwanted” or “additional” ingredients used, I’m glad that I tried.

The pizza looked so nice too, but my stomach was pretty full from the lunch I had just few minutes ago and I only had a space for 1 glass of smoothie then.  I’d like to try out their food and sweet on my next visit.

I love their concept, being eco and animal friendly.  The owners have a strong passion for raw food, and they believe that health can be achievable by eating nourishing food.  Their greatest passion is for the education of kids, and they offer a variety of workshops and information classes where people can learn what’s so good about eating raw food.

This is the place where you can enjoy the real healthy food made by people who care.


Posted January 24th, 2009 in Ume's Interests | 2 Comments »

I just read an interesting article about tea 🙂

– History-

「The delicious qualities of tea were first discovered by an early Chinese Emperor.  He and his court stopped to rest whilst visiting a remote region one summer day.  As his servants began boiling water to drink, dried leaves from a nearby Camellia Sinensis plant fell into the boiling water and a brown liquid with a tempting scent began to infuse.  With both his scientific curiosity and his taste buds immediately aroused, the Emperor tasted the liquid.  He declared it to give “vigour of body, contentment of mind and determination of purpose.”」

Whilst there are so many kinds of tea in the world, people seem to think that Japanese tea = green tea only.  However there are more varieties, actually.  Ryoku-cha (green tea), Genmai-cha, Mugi-cha, Hato-mugi-cha, Houji-cha, Sen-cha, Maccha, etc etc…  They all taste different and the scent is so individual.

By the way, did you know that both English tea and Japanese Green tea all come from the same plant?  They taste different because of the manufacturing process!  And, tea is the most widely consumed beverage in the world after water.  Considering the numerous kinds of tea in the world, it’s not a surprising fact at all.

Among the variety of tea, I like Genmai-cha and Houji-cha. Those roasted tea give me an energy and calm my nerves down.  For English teas, I love Earl Grey the most.  I usually enjoy drinking it with milk, or use it for cooking (such as tea cookies, cakes and ice-cream).

Eating out

Posted December 27th, 2008 in Eat out in Japan | 2 Comments »

On the next day we arrived Japan, I had dinner with one of my best friend.  I was taken to this neighbor Italian restaurant “Cannery Row”:  one of my favorite place 🙂

We ordered cheese fondue, chicken pizza and fresh basil & smoked salmon pasta as main; salad, drinks, entree and dessert are in buffet section, they are “all you can eat”. 

All the food is very nice!!  but the reason why I like this place is their service.  Staffs are so polite and friendly:)  Love their uniform too:)

Cheese Fondue

There are millions of restaurants in Japan and the places I’m showing in this blog are just one of them.  During this holiday I went to buffet style restaurants quite often.  This Cannery Row is also buffet restaurant, and other place I went was an organic and slow food buffet restaurant “Hinano”.  It’s a fusion of Japanese and Western cuisine, and they only use organic food 🙂  I think their target is women (as most of their food was vegetable, not so many meat), and I love all the food!(I’m a girl :))  Japanese style salad, udon, grilled fish, tempura, pizza, few kinds of rice, etc etc….   They keep serving different food every 30min so we didn’t get bored.  I ate a lot…  OMG :p

(these plates are not only for me!  a table of my family (9 ppl) :p)

Their interior and plates are also nice; I think this type of restaurants “natural” “slow food” “healthy” “organic” “buffet” are Japanese trend now. (maybe?)  Inexpensive too!


Posted November 25th, 2008 in Ume's Interests | 4 Comments »


Since I came to Perth there is one thing that I noticed about myself…  My memory is getting short!! 🙁

I can’t even remember what I ate for dinner last night.  It’s getting serious…  I’m too young to be dementia☆

In Japan I used to eat fish (and fish egg) a lot.  Sometimes twice a day.  There are lots of kind of fish and most of them (eg Tuna, Bonito, Yellowtail, Sardine, etc) contain DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid) which is good for brain and health.  So I was consuming good source of food in Japan without any effort.

Now, however, I don’t eat fish here so often and I’m doubting maybe this is the reason for my short memory :p  Well, I guess fish is not only the reason, but it could be one of them.

I really had to do something about it.  I don’t really like taking medicine or supplements.  Then, I found this wonderful herb in a gardening store near my house.  It’s called “BRAHMI”.

This Brahmi has been used in traditional Indian medicine for over 3000 years, and there are incredible stories about this plant.  (You can find out more from this website)  It says that eating this herb actually helps concentration and memory recall. …. I have to try then!

The shape of this herb is actually cute and I can just put it in the kitchen:)  Now I’m taking about 3g of it everyday, as a tea infusion, as a garnish to cakes and as an ingredients for my sandwiches / pizza toppings 🙂