You had me at Sushi

Sushi, currently one of the most populair dishes in the world due to her many variations. However, two plants are by definition complementary to sushi, both in flavour and function: Shiso and Daikon.

Sushi: originally a preservation method

Around the fourth century before our era, rice with vinegar was used in South East Asia to be able to preserve freshwater fish for a longer period of time. When it was time to eat the fish, the rice was thrown away. Originally, the word "sushi" refers to the sour rice, and not the fish. 

This method to pickle fish spread from China to Japan, and the sushi that we know now weren't developed until later in the 18th century, such as the Nigiri sushi: a ball of rice covered with a piece of fish. Since this type of sushi is extremely easy to prepare, and because it can be made with cheap ingredients, the concept quickly travelled all over the world. 

Right now, sushi has become an indispensable part of many people's diets. And because every culture is able to adjust the ingredients of sushi, the number of varieties has skyrocketed. From the pure Japanese sashimi to the westernized California Roll: all roads lead to sushi. 

Shiso: more than just a pretty face, Functional

If you have ever had take-out sushi, you may have noticed the serrated green piece of plastic between the sushi. This makes sure the sushi doesn't stick together, but did you ever wonder why it is serrated? This plastic sheet is a symbol for the Shiso leaf, a large spiky green or deep-purple leaf. In Asia, the leaves of the Shiso plant were originally eaten together with raw fish, because they have a natural aseptic effect, which can prevent food poisoning. Nowadays, the quality of the fish is so good that the leaf mainly fulfills a decorational purpose. However, many people argue that the flavour of Shiso is indispensable in combination with Japanese dishes. The typical anise, mint, cumin-ish flavour of Shiso is a symbol for "the Japanese flavour" to many of us. 

 

Shiso: more than just a pretty face, Healthy

Shiso Purple is rich in vitamin B6, vitamin K and fibers and a source of vitamin B5. Because Shiso Purple has such a strong flavour, it can season a dish without the need for extra salt. 

In Asian countries the Shiso Green leaves are used to make tea. The tea contains antioxidants and anti-inflammatory substances. The tea also strengthens the immunesystem and the health of the skin. Try a blend of Shiso Green, Cardamom Leaves and Kaffir Lime Leaves, possibly with some ginger and honey.  

Radish: indispensable in the Japanese cuisine, For a good reason

Daikon Cress and Sakura Cress are both seedlings from radish. Daikon Cress decends from the white radish, or Daikon. Sakura Cress is a purple colored seedling from the well-known red radish. 

The seedlings of Daikon are referred to in Japan as "kaiware daikon". Daikon originates from Central-Asia, but has gained international attention as a Japanese product due to the usage in world-wide famous Japanese dishes. The Japanese started eating kaiware daikon in the Heian era (year 794-1185), a then luxury product due to the fact that each seedling was planted by hand. Its popularity grew when the cultivation systems started to become more efficient in 1960, which resulted in kaiware daikon becoming available to be consumed by the middle class, too. Nowadays, it is often used as an ingredient in hot pots, as decoration for a variety of dishes and as an additive to sushi. 

Radish: indispensable in the Japanese cuisine, For a good reason

The thing that makes radish so spicy is the substance glucosinolate, which the plant produces as a natural defense system against insects and larvae. This spiciness adds to Daikon Cress and Sakura Cress' charm in gastronomy, since that makes them suitable to be natural flavour enhancers in dishes. Furthermore, normal amounts of glucosinolates protect the body against carcinogenic substances. These glucosinolates ensure that your body produces more of a certain type (Phase 2) of proteins. These proteins render toxins in the human body harmless. This makes radishes a tasty and functional vegetable. 

Rob in Japan, Kyoyasai

Rob Baan has visited many countries in his lifetime, including China, Korea and Japan, where he's spend at least 100 days to research the local vegetables. In Japan he has learned about the Kyoyasai; vegetables that have been grown in the outskirts of Kyoto for around 1200 years. Kyo is short for 'Kyoto', and yasai means 'vegetables'. These hereditary vegetables contain, according to research done by the Laboratory of Health and Environment in Kyoto, a higher dose of minerals, fibers and vitamins than many other kinds of vegetables. The Kyoyasai also contains more nutrients that restore DNA, when compared to other vegetables. They often occur in different, unrecognizable forms, which makes them popular products in the Japanese top gastronomy.

Rob in Japan, Purely natural

In the 8th century agricuture arose in Kyoto, which was the capital of Japan during that time and therefore the hometown of many aristocrates. Their wealth was used to produce high quality food, predominantely vegetables, originating in the mountains surrounding Kyoto due to that fact that the city is situated relatively far from the ocean. The history of Buddhism in Japan has also had a great influence on the Japanese food culture. Most Buddhists pursue a vegetarian lifestyle and because Kyoto is home to many buddhist temples, the quality of vegetables and preparation methods of vegetables flourished. Japanese cuisine mainly consists of vegetables, served with little to no sauces or dressings. The emphasis lies on the delicate, nostalgic taste of the Kyoyasai, which is perceived by the Japanese as a very high quality product. 

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