The Ume Remedy
Everyone and their mother preach the axiom, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” I’ve never tested the validity of this panacea because when it comes to food, I prefer a good variety. I love apples, but I’m not obsessed enough to eat one everyday or even on a regular basis for that matter.
But receiving great health benefits, while enjoying delicious food, is an opportunity too good to pass up. Knowing this, my mother has long praised the flavor and healing qualities of umeboshi, a Japanese pickled ume fruit.
Ume is the Japanese equivalent of a plum or apricot. It tastes extremely sour and salty and is traditionally served with rice for breakfast and lunch. This pickle boasts a myriad of health benefits including alleviating hangovers (move over Alka-Seltzer), helping digestion, preventing nausea, delaying aging and fighting bacteria. It’s also famous for combating battle fatigue and was given as part of a samurai’s field ration back in the day. Though I never partook in any warlord battles, I was always fed umeboshi when feeling under the weather. And I swear, I got better.
You can savor the umeboshi in countless ways, but my personal favorite is my mother’s recipe of stir-fried umeboshi udon. Here you taste the distinct tang of umeboshi, but in a milder form than eating them straight up. Their acidity can be overwhelming, but lessens when they’re spread out over the thick wheat-flour noodles. This is my go-to dish when hungry or sick. Cures both ailments admirably. You could even finish the meal with an apple as dessert to double up on the healing efforts, although I prefer a double scoop of green tea gelato. But then again, I’m no doctor.
Stir-Fried Umeboshi Udon
All ingredients can be purchased at your local Asian market, an Asian section of your grocery store or online.
- 1 8-ounce package udon noodles
- 1 to 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
- 4 umeboshi (standard size), chopped
- ½ teaspoon Huy Fong chili garlic sauce (optional)
- ½ teaspoon soy sauce
- ½ teaspoon sesame oil
- Chopped scallions and sesame seeds to garnish
- Place udon noodles in boiling water and let them cook for 4 to 6 minutes. When finished, drain in strainer and set aside.
- Grease pan with vegetable oil over medium-high heat.
- Add chopped umeboshi and chili garlic sauce to the pan (if you’re giving noodles a spicy kick) and stir for 2 to 3 minutes.
- Combine cooked udon noodles with the umeboshi and chili garlic sauce. Finish by adding soy sauce and sesame oil, then stir for another 2 minutes.
- Garnish with chopped scallions and sesame seeds.