Edamame is the Japanese name for fresh soybeans. Edamame, which are usually bright to dark green, are available fresh in Asian markets from late spring to early fall or are available frozen year-round.

The Japanese name edamame (枝豆) is commonly used to refer to the dish. The Japanese name literally means “twig bean” (eda = “twig” + mame = “bean”) and refers to young soybeans cropped with its twig. Edamame refers also to the salt-boiled dish because of its prevalence. Edamame is a popular sidedish at Japanese izakaya restaurants with local varieties being in demand, depending on the season. The salt is also important for edamame. In Japan, arajio is the preferred salt, because it is a natural sea salt. This coarse salt is wet with brine, thus loaded with oceany and mineral flavors.

In Chinese, young soybeans are known as maodou (Chinese: 毛豆; pinyin: máodòu; literally “hairy bean”). Young soybeans in the pod are known as maodoujia (Chinese: 毛豆荚; pinyin: máodòujiá; literally “hairy bean pod”). Because boiling in the pod is the usual preparation for young soybeans, the dish is usually identified via a descriptive name, such as “boiled maodou“, or “salt-boiled maodou“, depending on the condiments added. Simply saying the name of the bean, maodou, in a Chinese restaurant will produce salt-flavored, boiled maodou.

In Korea, edamame is called kong, a general term used for all beans.

Preparation

Green soybeans in the pod are picked before they ripen. The ends of the pod may be cut before boiling or steaming.

The pods are then boiled in water or steamed. The most common preparation uses salt for taste. The salt may either be dissolved in the boiling water before introducing the soybean pods, or it may be added after the pods have been cooked. Boiled soybean pods are usually served after cooling/freezing, but can also be served hot.

Other condiments can also be used. Jiuzao (Chinese: 酒糟; pinyin: jiǔzāo; literally “wine dregs”), made from the highly fermented grain residue left over from the distilling of rice wine, can be used to add fragrance and flavor. Some recipes also call for Sichuan pepper for taste. Five-spice powder can also be used for flavoring.

Along with eating the beans whole, they can be served as a dip. Packets of seasoning for edamame dip can be found in many Asian/Oriental sections of food markets.

Ethnicity: Japanese

Season: available year-round

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