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VOL. 38 | NO. 6 | Friday, February 07, 2014

Edamame is an easy, nutritious snack

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Edamame. Pronounced: ay-duh-MAH-may. Funny word. But only to Americans. It’s a Japanese word that literally means “twig bean” – eda (twig) + mame (bean).

The other day at the grocery store, one of my sons picked up a package of frozen “Edamame with Sea Salt.” He eats at a lot of the Japanese and Chinese restaurants, so knew what he was getting.

I, on the other hand, was not savvy about edamame – with or without sea salt – because “you-know-who” does not like to eat at Japanese restaurants, so when we go out they are never an option. This has a way of limiting your knowledge about certain foods.

So, I was glad when No. 2 son picked these up and stuck them in the cart, even though I thought he was being somewhat exotic and mysterious.

Later that afternoon, he got them out of the freezer and popped them in the microwave for about four minutes. After the dinger quit dinging, he got them out of the microwave, cut the bag open, poured them in a bowl, and started munching.

He would gently snap open the end of the shell, and then squeeze the beans in his mouth.

I followed suit and was hooked. I have eaten these things so much now it’s crazy. I have ordered them at restaurants and eaten them as snacks at home. I love edamame.

So, for those of you who are like me – or like I was – and not only don’t know how to pronounce them, but also not even what they look like, pay attention. I am going to get you the edamame scoop.

Edamame is young soybeans, usually still in the pod.

Because the beans are young and green when they are picked, edamame soybeans are soft and edible, not hard and dry like the mature soybeans used to make soy milk and tofu.

Tofu is something I know about but leave alone. I have not been able to develop a liking for it. Maybe never. I think it is a texture thing.

Wok-Fried Edamame with Garlic

1 lb. unshelled fresh or frozen edamame
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons oyster sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 teaspoons peanut oil
2 garlic cloves, minced

Bring 4 cups of water to a boil and add edamame. Once the water is boiling again, cook for 5 minutes or until tender. Drain and transfer edamame to a bowl. Drain and pat dry. Set aside.

Mix together soy sauce, oyster sauce, and sesame oil in a small bowl. Set aside.

Heat peanut oil in a heavy large work over medium-high heat. Add garlic; saute until beginning to brown, about 1 minute. Add edamame and stir to heat through, about 2 minutes. Add soy sauce mixture; stir 1 minute to coat evenly and heat through. Transfer to platter and serve.

The Japanese name of edamame actually refers to immature soybeans that have been cropped and still contain their branches (twigs), though the name has now become synonymous with the Japanese dish.

Soybeans are, of course, not only eaten in Japanese restaurants. They are very popular in other parts of Asia, too. In China, these young immature soybeans are referred to by the name of Maodou (hairy bean pod).

Known as “vegetable soybeans,” edamame have a rich, distinctive and delicious flavor, a kind of nutty flavor.

Soybeans suited for fresh use are generally larger-seeded, sweeter, smoother and more digestible than grain soybeans. In addition to taste, their recent increase in popularity might be because they are well suited to modern lifestyle as a convenient and highly nutritious snack or as a side dish for both adults and children.

To eat edamame, place the pod at your mouth, then squeeze or bite the beans into your mouth.

Don’t eat the pod, just the beans inside, which easily pop out.

I unashamedly will say (because I wasn’t edamame-savvy at the time) that I tried to eat the pod. It’s not tasty. Nor is it very “chewable.”

So, don’t look stupid in a restaurant and pop, pod and all, in your mouth.

I also picked up a frozen bag of shelled edamame. I warmed it briefly in the microwave, served it alongside our entrée as a side dish, and found it very good.

You also can find bags of corn and edamame in the frozen section of your grocery. I have one of those but I haven’t tried it yet.

Edamame are among the few plant foods that provide a complete protein. This means that they have all the essential amino acids your body needs.

Unlike other complete-protein foods, such as eggs or meat, edamame have no cholesterol and very little saturated fat.

They are low in sodium, high in vitamin C, K, manganese and folate, and are a good source of dietary fiber, iron, calcium, thiamin, magnesium, phosphorus and copper.

If you haven’t tried these yet, pick up a bag in the frozen foods section. They are really good!

Other than just popping them in the oven, here is another good way to munch on edamame.

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