Can someone please demystify umeboshi for me?

sprater
Bento-ing from: › Georgia › USA
Joined: 14 Sep 2009
User offline. Last seen 5 years 3 days ago.

I'm very interested in trying umeboshi, but the last time I went to a large Asian market to buy some, there were dozens of different varieties...and all of them described in Japanese, which I do not read. Can someone point out a good brand or type to try? Some I saw were dry packed, others were sitting in liquid. Some looked firm and wrinkly and others were plump and looked soft. I'm just so confused.

Is there one in particular that's just very popular and/or a good choice for an umeboshi newbie?

Also, how does one eat umeboshi? I know that it's traditional to place one in the middle of your rice, but do you take bites of it with rice, eat it in one bite, or do you mash and mix it into the rice?

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
Tanuki
Re: Can someone please demystify umeboshi for me?

I really love Muraoka Foods' crunchy ume. They are fresh packed individually and come in a clear & white plastic bag with pictures of plum blossoms on it. The logo is pink and dark blue. They're incredibly sour but I love them. Lots of Japanese eat them as an infrequent snack treat.

The dried ume I have some trouble with. I hardly ever buy them but I suppose they could be used as furikake (rice topping) with sesame seeds, nori flakes, what have you. They can be reconstituted with some success for some dishes; most are quite salty.

In the jars look for umeboshi aka. They have a mild taste and are good to use in onigiri. You can mince three or four into a chunky paste to use for a pasta topping along with a little mirin and soy sauce. I like topping angel hair w/this mixture and adding nori flakes. Yuzu Kosho, BTW, makes another outstanding pasta topping, as does mentaiko.

I think eating your ume in your onigiri is akin to your favorite way to eat an Oreo. Chew around it before you eat it all at once or a little bit with every bite. Just a matter of preference.

Most of the brined ume in jars are a tasty decoration in one way or another, usually over rice to give a snappy extra flavor to make it more interesting. Also try the golden ones, which are often sweet, to see if you like them. And don't be afraid to ask for help or recommendations from the stores where you can find them.

Loretta
Moderator
Bento-ing from: London › UK
Joined: 4 Mar 2009
User offline. Last seen 1 year 12 weeks ago.
Re: Can someone please demystify umeboshi for me?

Hmmm, this is really tricky as I have no idea about the range of umeboshi available to you at your local stores.

Part of the appeal of umeboshi to me is that there are so very many different kinds to try, some are eye-wateringly sour, others are literally steeped in honey, some are soft, wrinkled and squidgy, others as crisp as a fresh green apple. I always pick up a mystery packet on every trip to Japan.

Some people take the stone out before putting them inside umeboshi, I generally don't - it's just like eating bread with unpitted olives, you just need to take care when biting into it. Sucking an umeboshi stone is one of my favourite parts, the flavour is particularly intense this way, just like when you suck a peach kernel.

For a tentative first try of umeboshi, and without my knowing what you can easily buy, a safe bet would be for me to suggest umeboshi in a tube.
It comes in paste form in a little squeezy bottle (just like Wasabi), both S&B and House brands manufacture it
http://www.japancentre.com/images/items/250px/2f6c6e850017a0c58a94c0caa1...
You can squeeze out as little or as much as you like, have it alone in onigiri or mix it with flakes of dried bonito (umekaka). It combines very nicely with cucumber and can be mixed into mayonnaise as a tangy dressing to accompany fish or to eat with salads.
Once you know whether you get on with the taste you should feel better about buying whole umeboshi, or even umeboshi candy.

I hope this is the start of an ume love affair and that you end up being as fond of these plums/apricots as I am!

maki
admin
Bento-ing from: somewhere › France
Joined: 24 Jan 2007
User offline. Last seen 1 day 17 hours ago.
Re: Can someone please demystify umeboshi for me?

To me, the standard umeboshi (the one they might put next to its entry in the dictionary) is about the size of a medium olive, soft and wrinkly, and made with red shiso leaves which gives it a reddish-brown color. (See my mother's method). There may be regional preferences though - my family is from Saitama and Tokyo (both in the Kanto region).

Anyway, a standard umeboshi is salty and very sour, but quite versatile. If you are an umeboshi beginner, don't just pop one 'neat' into your mouth unless you like really really sour and salty things! It is better to have it in a diffused form to start with. You can use it finely chopped as an addition to salad dressings and sauces. Instead of using it 'straight' as an onigiri filling, try mixing it with some bonito flakes - this mix is called 'ume-kaka' (hold your giggles) and is really nice - sour and fishy but neither flavor is too overwhelming.

Honey soaked or dashi soaked umeboshi ar standard umeboshi marinated in these things. The marinating also softens that intense sour-saltiness. Honey soaked is the mildest.

Koume or kari kari ume are small ume (of a different variety) that are crunchy instead of soft. They are a bit less sour than regular umeboshi. There are green and red kinds.

To get a taste of what ume flavor is like, you may want to try some ume candy. Koume-chan is a classic, but there are others.

I guess one of these days I need to do one of my roundup posts for umeboshi!

____________________________________

The Big Onigiri.

- Wherever you go, there you are. -

c-helle
Bento-ing from: Birmingham › Alabama › USA
Joined: 30 Aug 2009
User offline. Last seen 4 years 29 weeks ago.
Re: Can someone please demystify umeboshi for me?

I did find an amazing array of umeboshi choices at one of the local Asian groceries. I found, though, that almost all of them contained MSG. Is there a brand you can recommend that does not? Or are we Americans too afraid of MSG?

Jiza
Bento-ing from: Madrid › Spain
Joined: 13 Feb 2009
User offline. Last seen 2 years 49 weeks ago.
Re: Can someone please demystify umeboshi for me?

i had some purple colored umeboshi in a restaurant the other day... well i don't know if they are actual umeboshi (never tried them before) they had a bright purple color and very sour, but small... like a small olive, maybe a little bigger. They were nice :)

____________________________________

My bento blog: http://justbento.com/blog/1305
My art blog: http://jizaacaso.deviantart.com

maki
admin
Bento-ing from: somewhere › France
Joined: 24 Jan 2007
User offline. Last seen 1 day 17 hours ago.
MSG free umeboshi

Well, MSG is basically sodium, so worrying about it in a high-salt product like umeboshi may be sort of a moot point. However a tiny fraction of the population are actually highly sensitive to MSG; plus it adds a slightly chemical flavor to food IMO. Anyway, umeboshi has been embraced by the macrobiotic movement, so you are likely to find MSG-free kinds at natural food stores rather than general Asian grocery stores. One brand in the U.S. is Eden Foods, who also sells them by mailorder. (In the UK there is Clearspring)

As with most Japanese foods, the cheaper it is, the more likely umeboshi is to have additives like MSG.

littleWren
Bento-ing from: Fort Worth › Texas › USA
Joined: 5 Oct 2009
User offline. Last seen 4 years 38 weeks ago.
Re: Can someone please demystify umeboshi for me?

I don't know if this belongs here please forgive me if this question has already been anwsered.

Can an onigiri with umeboshi as a filling be frozen then microwaved the next day? I ask because I'm usualy short on time in the mornings and my rice cooker doesnt have a timer setting so unfortunattely the freezer is my best option. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

maki
admin
Bento-ing from: somewhere › France
Joined: 24 Jan 2007
User offline. Last seen 1 day 17 hours ago.
Re: Can someone please demystify umeboshi for me?

Yes onigiri with filling can be frozen successfully. Just make as usual, wrap securely in plastic wrap and put in a freezer bag or freezer box. You can defrost them until they are warm on the HIGH setting for a couple of minutes or so depending on how bit the onigiri is, or the DEFROST setting for longer (I usually use the HIGH setting). One tip - round onigiri defrost more evenly than triangular onigiri. Try for a flat, round shape, like a stack of Oreo cookies.

littleWren
Bento-ing from: Fort Worth › Texas › USA
Joined: 5 Oct 2009
User offline. Last seen 4 years 38 weeks ago.
Re: Can someone please demystify umeboshi for me?

Thankyou so much Maki for your advice, this has made my mornings so much easier!

Re: Can someone please demystify umeboshi for me?
maki wrote:

Yes onigiri with filling can be frozen successfully. Just make as usual, wrap securely in plastic wrap and put in a freezer bag or freezer box. You can defrost them until they are warm on the HIGH setting for a couple of minutes or so depending on how bit the onigiri is, or the DEFROST setting for longer (I usually use the HIGH setting). One tip - round onigiri defrost more evenly than triangular onigiri. Try for a flat, round shape, like a stack of Oreo cookies.

I thought I'd share our method for defrosting rice. My husband is very conncerned about food being contaminated with volatile gases from plastic cling wap when its microwaved and he has a total freak-out if he sees food defrosting in the mcirowave under plastic wrap. So I started to peel it off before popping it in but I learned the hard way that pulling plastic cling wrap off of frozen onigiri or rice means there is little bits of it left sticking to the food, which is not very nice to get in your mouth.

So now I run the onigiri or pre-portioned rice under cold water for a few seconds and the plastic wrap peels right off. The rice is still frozen and I defrost it as usual but cover it with a wet paper towel so it won't dry out.

It tastes just fine this way and no husband freak-out ensues!

clarissa
Bento-ing from: Berlin › Germany
Joined: 6 Jan 2009
User offline. Last seen 4 years 1 week ago.
Re: Can someone please demystify umeboshi for me?

Such a post would be most welcome! Now that I have found a shop with a wide range of asian goods in a place I can reach easy, I would like to try more things. But I'm hesistant in bying just anything without knowing how to use it.

____________________________________

Adopt one today!
Adopt one today!
Adopt one today!
Adopt one today!

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.

New forum activity since your last visit

TitleAuthorAnswersLast Postsort icon
Sesame salad dressing Supertaster91 year 7 weeks ago
Authentic paella? maki101 year 8 weeks ago
IMPORTANT: If you have a blog on JustBento... maki21 year 11 weeks ago
Shiso - uses for this herb Loretta01 year 13 weeks ago
Fuki (Japanese Butterbur) Tsukemono Recipes kumo51 year 13 weeks ago