One of our big outings over winter break was to the Kinukuniya bookstore in Shinjuku. They have a very decent foreign book section and it is possible that some members of the family were more excited about this than the trip to Disneyland. I’ve been looking for a cookbook for some basic Japanese recipes and after much comparison I ended up with A Cook’s Journey to Japan by Sarah Marx Feldner. This one may not have better recipes than the cookbooks I passed over, but I liked the voice of the author.
Last week I decided to pick a page at random and make one of the recipes. The first one I hit on was Japanese Cocktail Peanuts, but these require roasting in an oven so I picked another random page with a recipe for Shoyumame, which translates to soy sauce beans. The beans in this instance are fava beans (also called soramame or broad beans). I discovered soramame are seasonal, but that is OK because this recipe wanted me to start with dried beans so I could toast them. This began a days long search for dried fava beans. I looked at several grocery stores, some we’ve been to many times and some new ones like the foodium. No luck. The foodium had fresh fava beans even though they are out of season, but I couldn’t find any dried ones.
There a bunch of shops in stalls along the ally by the south exit of Shimokitazawa train station and one of the stalls sells dried fruit, which includes beans. I said the word “soramame?” to the two elderly nihonjin minding the shop and the man pointed at a small bag of flat broad beans that looked like most of the pictures I’d seen online. He said something else about them that I think was along the lines of, “These are not soramame, but they are close enough.” It’s possible he was also telling me that no one calls them that or that I was pronouncing it wrong, but they did look close enough for me.
I bought them, took them home, toasted them, boiled them, and then simmered in some soy sauce and a cup of sugar for an hour. I let them sit over night and enjoyed them the next day with some Wednesday’s Cat.
The cookbook said you can eat the whole bean or peal off the outer skin and just eat the bean inside. They were kind of sticky so I used chopsticks to just pop them into my mouth whole. The end result tasted quite a bit like very sweet boiled peanuts. Which works out nicely because I used to love boiled peanuts. It is a southern thing and when I was in elementary school in Alabama my friends would bring them in their lunch and share. One of my friends hated them and he would give them to me any time his mother put them in his lunch.
The simmering and steeping take a long time, but it isn’t a very complex recipe. They were much sweeter than salty so I might adjust the recipe if I make these again.