Japanese Foods That Heal…a guide to healthful eating


We have all heard it, starting with our mothers, “Eat it! It is good for you!” But how often did we listen? The Japanese expression Ishoku Dogen is another version of that directive that may be translated to mean “Food is the key to health.”

Miso, shoyu, tamari, amazake, maitake and mirin are just a few of the 18 Japanese foods and beverages featured in this new guide to foods that are good for you, Japanese Foods That Heal by John and Jan Belleme. The husband and wife team also wrote more than 130 articles on Japanese foods and four other books including The Miso Book. They learned the craft of miso making by serving as apprentices in Japan and opened their own American Miso Company in 1979.

According to the authors, “Japanese Foods That Heal includes everything you will ever want to know about the healthy and delicious traditional foods of Japan…Our goals are to introduce traditional Japanese foods to you, provide the information necessary for you to determine the quality of the products or produce you purchase and offer recipes to guide you in their use.” And, that is exactly what they do.

The value of each food or beverage is discussed as to its nutritional and medicinal benefits. If it is something that has been altered from its natural form, the process is explained in detail. Then help is offered in selecting the best of each item and recipes are included for its use. Maitake is a good example.

Found in the deep forests of ancient Japan, wild maitake often grew to be 100 pounds and were highly prized, sometimes worth their weight in silver. Modern cultivation methods now make them available both fresh and dried in Asian markets around the world.

Nutritionally, maitake is low in calories and carbohydrates, high in protein and contains amino acids and B-glucans, plus other vitamins and minerals. In traditional Chinese medicine, it is thought to be the most cleansing of the medicinal mushrooms, targeting the liver and lungs. Modern medicine is looking to the maitake for treating certain types of cancer, cholesterol reduction, and weight loss.

In choosing dried maitake, look for the “Product of Japan” label on the package. In selecting fresh maitake look for well-formed mushrooms that are thick and light in color. The authors include five recipes using the mushroom including Somen with Maitake and Spinach, a stir-fry with noodles.

Miso, toasted sesame oil, shoyu, tamari, amazake, kuzu, brown rice vinegar, shiitake, brown rice malt syrup, umeboshi, mochi, noodles, tofu, seitan, sea vegetables, mirin, maitake and Japanese tea are featured in the book and offer more than just tasty treats.

Just issued by Tuttle Publishing, Japanese Foods That Heal is a 224-page paperback with a cover price of $18.95. It contains 125 recipes and several shopping resources. Most ingredients are available locally in many Asian markets.

Phyllis Louise Harris is a cookbook author, food writer and cooking teacher specializing in Asian foods. She is founder of the Asian Culinary Arts Institutes Ltd. dedicated to the preservation, understanding and enjoyment of the culinary arts of the Asia Pacific Rim. For information about ACAI’s programs call 612-813-1757 or visit the website at www.asianculinaryarts.com.