Food cultures around the world employ various aromatic herbs and spices to stimulate the appetite and promote healthful eating. Japan has a long history of using yakumi, best translated as “condiments,” that enhance flavor while providing a benefit to the body in some manner. Indeed, the Japanese word yakumi is written with calligraphy for “medicine” and “flavor,” suggesting the vitamin and mineral rich herbs and spices include preventative and curative powers.
Japanese yakumi pictured here (clockwise from upper left) are: myōga (a rhizome related to ginger), bannō negi (slender scallions; both green tops and white stalks are used), shin shōga (tender new ginger), green shiso. In the heat of the summer these refresh the palate and aid digestion. Various capsicums such as shishitō tōgarashi could be added to the mix for heat.
Visit my KITCHEN CULTURE blog for details and to download a recipe for assembling a BASIC YAKUMI MIX of myōga, shiso, mitsuba, ginger, and scallions.
Visit Kitchen Culture Cooking Club for Project: Yakumi. Explore ways to include fresh herbs and spices in your menus. A basic yakumi mix is terrific showered on stewed or fresh vegetables and blocks of chilled tōfu, too. Or, trying folding the mix into an omelet.. or adding it to a dipping sauce for noodles.
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Elizabeth Andoh A Taste of Culture Culinary Arts Program Setagaya-ku, Tokyo 158-0095, Japan