When I was a little kid, my mem (mom in Frisian) used to feed me slippery seaweed and chunks of tofu on a regular basis and made me take five algae pills every afternoon before lunch. It was hyper-healthy and based on traditional Japanese ideas of what constitutes healthy food. I discovered Asian food at quite a young age. I still love traveling to the Far East to still my hunger for food inspiration…
And I don’t just go for the sushi and noodles… We’re all familiar with those these days. What’s much more interesting is the super healthy traditional diet in Japan, for example, which consists in large part of seaweed, local vegetables, soy and fish, or street food in Thailand and the delicious food in Shanghai and Beijing. I’m crazy about the different Asian cultures and their light, nutritious dishes. You’ve probably noticed this, as both of my Powerfood cookbooks are full of these dishes.
Asian cuisine is fresh, colorful, full of flavor and never boring. And because the emphasis is on grains and vegetables, the dishes are healthy, cheap and easy to prepare. Asian cuisine is as varied and multifaceted as European cuisine. Every Asian county has developed its own unique cuisine. For me, trying dishes from these countries is one adventure after another. This is primarily because they’ve discovered the flavor umami. Umami is one of the five basic flavors alongside salty, sweet, sour and bitter. In Japanese, the terms means ‘savory and rich in flavor’ and most of the dishes are these very things.
I’ve got another trip to Asia planned soon. Bring on the miso soup, Pad Thai, Vietnamese summer rolls, sushi and champuru! (check video #14 Champuru ) I can’t wait to be back so that I can get inspired all over again and fill my belly with healthy and tasty good.
Kombu has been eaten in China and primarily in Japan for centuries and now this seaweed is popping up more and more in stores and restaurants here. Yeah! You might need to get used to the flavor, but it’s incredibly healthy. Kombu is rich in calcium, potassium, magnesium, iron, sodium and protein among many other things. It is the perfect ingredient for anyone that doesn’t eat a lot of bread, algae or fish, as it’s full of iodine, which everyone really needs. The seaweed grows naturally on the rocky bottom of cold, calm seas. Most kombu used to come from the Japanese islands, but it is now cultivated in China and Korea. It usually grows to be about two to five meters long and is cultivated in the ocean on ropes that hang in the water. Naturally it takes about 20 months of growth before the seaweed can be harvested, but now with a bit of help, it only takes 12. You can buy it dried in natural food stores or Asian food stores. If they’re kept dry and cool, sheets of kombu have a shelf life of several months.