Umeboshi is a Japanese pickled plum which is salty and sour, most commonly used in the center of an onigiri, or rice ball. To learn how to make an onigiri, click on the link and watch my video! Traditionally, umeboshi were extremely salty and sour, but as our palettes have changed and we are more conscious of our sodium intake, the flavor has become more mild. Today umeboshi can be pickled, soaked to release saltiness and then sweetened with honey. Such varieties are endless. However, that being said, the best umeboshi comes from Wakayama, a prefecture that is on the coast of Japan, south west from Osaka. See map. The Wakayama Prefecture Website also has lots of information. Click here.
My girlfriend is from Wakayama, and she invited me to join her for a Wakayama gathering that shared wonderful umeboshi dishes. What a diverse and interesting group of Japanese and Americans! But most importantly, all love umeboshi!
Instead of just eating an umeboshi “as is”, it can be enjoyed in many variety of ways. First the “flesh” of the plum is removed, leaving only the pit. It becomes a consistency of a paste. Using this paste, you can add a real zing to many common dishes. Just think of the umeboshi as a condiment like wasabi, that can be added to many dishes to give recipes a new depth of flavor.
By the time we sat down for dinner, the spread on the table was filled with unusual dishes, that we all were excited to be guinea pigs! We enjoyed umeboshi paste blended with mayonnaise to create a lovely, tangy dip that was paired with grilled chicken and hamburgers. Next, the grilled sausages on a baguette had a little umeboshi paste spread thinly and this was most tasty. The paste was also added to a pasta with bacon and cabbage and to a cream based sauce for grilled chicken. All very yummy indeed. However, the prize for the most unique and flavorful use of the umeboshi was created by Ross, who was born and raised in Wakayama and Kobe. The umeboshi pizza! Instead of the usual marinara sauce as the base of a pizza, he used umeboshi paste. It may sound strange, but it does taste divine!
Ross’s Umeboshi Pizza with Japanese Eggplant
- Store bought whole wheat pizza dough, already rolled.
- Umeboshi paste
- 3 Japanese eggplant
- Mozarella cheese
- Sesame oil
- Slice eggplant into rounds and fry with sesame oil. Set aside
- On pizza dough, spread a thin layer of umeboshi paste.
- Top with the eggplant
- Sprinkle shredded mozarella cheese on top
- Bake at recommended temperature on dough package ( usually between 400-450F) until done (about 15 minutes)
This is a photo of the umeboshi pizza with pepperoni and cilantro, which is similar to a regular pepperoni pizza with a twist on the sauce. By the time I thought about taking the photo, we had consumed all the eggplant pizza! The pit underneath the rosemary twig, is the pit of the umeboshi once the “flesh” has been removed.
Hope you give umeboshi a try and let your taste buds experience a new flavor!