An Ode to Slimy, Slippery, Sticky Food

Few foods paint upon the blank canvas of a bowl of jasmine rice quite as brilliantly as natto. A much-loved Japanese dish of fermented soybeans, natto complements the rice sitting beneath, its gooey, stringy texture and pungent aroma lending the plain …

Few foods paint upon the blank canvas of a bowl of jasmine rice quite as brilliantly as natto. A much-loved Japanese dish of fermented soybeans, natto complements the rice sitting beneath, its gooey, stringy texture and pungent aroma lending the plain grains a satisfying kick. The moment natto hits my tongue, the luscious mouthfeel leaves me craving another bite.

This simple breakfast—topped with the sharp fragrance of garnishes like mustard, soy sauce, and chopped spring onions—appeared frequently on my family's table when I was growing up. With an enthusiasm instilled in me by my father from the time he spent in Japan, I always devoured natto, delighting in its punchy flavor and never minding its sticky texture. Natto and similarly slick foods such as seaweed and mountain yam (usually known as nagaimo or yamaimo) were permanent fixtures in my diet, their distinctly slippery textures downright slurp-worthy.

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The Flavorful Secrets of Saké Kasu

This excerpt has been adapted from Water, Wood & Wild Things by Hannah Kirshner, published by Viking, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC. Copyright (C) 2021 by Hannah Kirshner.

One of the great pleasu…

This excerpt has been adapted from Water, Wood & Wild Things by Hannah Kirshner, published by Viking, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC. Copyright (C) 2021 by Hannah Kirshner.


One of the great pleasures of life in Yamanaka—a mountain town in Ishikawa, Japan—is eating saké kasu soft serve after a soak in the public hot spring. The local sake brewery, makers of Shishi no sato, sell the cones year round at their shop, just a block away from the baths. The ice cream’s refreshing and not-too-sweet flavor has all the floral yeasty aromas of saké without the alcoholic burn.

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Hojicha Powder Adds Nutty, Roasty Flavor to Desserts & Drinks

Though brown in color, hojicha is actually a type of green tea made from the plant’s lower leaves, stalks, stems, and twigs. These components are charcoal-roasted in a ceramic pot over high heat, and sold either as a loose-leaf tea or ground into powde…

Though brown in color, hojicha is actually a type of green tea made from the plant’s lower leaves, stalks, stems, and twigs. These components are charcoal-roasted in a ceramic pot over high heat, and sold either as a loose-leaf tea or ground into powder. Hojicha powder can be used easily in a number of applications as an extraordinary flavor element for both savory and sweet culinary ideas

Though hojicha is roasted, doing so doesn’t change its green tea health benefits. Hojicha does have a lower caffeine content than matcha, which is a powder made from dried (and comparatively babied) young green tea leaves. For those with sensitivities to caffeine, a cup of matcha ingested at the wrong hour may lead to a sleepless night, so it might be time to switch to drinking hojicha at teatime and beyond.

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5 Mirin Substitutes That Live in Your Pantry (or Bar)

Mirin is a sweetened Japanese rice wine commonly whisked into sauces, dressings, and marinades, and added to simmered dishes like soups and stews. A little goes a long way, but a bottle won’t last forever. If you find yourself fresh out of this fragran…

Mirin is a sweetened Japanese rice wine commonly whisked into sauces, dressings, and marinades, and added to simmered dishes like soups and stews. A little goes a long way, but a bottle won't last forever. If you find yourself fresh out of this fragrant, umami-rich seasoning but still want to add the flavor and depth that comes from cooking with wine, here are our best mirin substitutes, so you can get that Japanese-style roast chicken on the table without further delay.

1. Sake

Sake makes a great substitute for mirin—already being rice wine takes it halfway to the finish line. Many kinds of sake, especially unfiltered, are sweet enough to substitute for mirin without any doctoring up. In the case of drier sake, a splash of apple or white grape juice or a pinch of sugar will make up for it.

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A Beginner’s Guide to Shochu

“The first written record of shochu was actually graffiti on a temple,” Rule of Thirds partner George Padilla told me. “In the 1400s, some builders working on a temple had scrawled, in the wood, a snide comment about the high priest being stingy with h…

“The first written record of shochu was actually graffiti on a temple,” Rule of Thirds partner George Padilla told me. “In the 1400s, some builders working on a temple had scrawled, in the wood, a snide comment about the high priest being stingy with his shochu. Fittingly, this is the first record of what is, still today, considered a blue-collar beverage in Japan.”

Japan’s oldest, most traditional alcoholic beverage, shochu is a clear, distilled spirit made from fermented, well, almost anything. “I’ve actually calculated this once,” Kyushu-based osteopathic researcher by day, Kanpai blogger by night Stephen Lyman said to me. “For all the different decisions made during the process, there are literally millions of styles of shochu you can make. The scope is enormous.”

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A Vegan Pantry Staple You Can Get at Any 7-11 in Japan

Even though—like miso and tempeh—it is made of fermented soybeans, sticky, earthy, funky natto does not receive the same love as its cousins. Slimy foods are just a little bit challenging to sell—no matter how high in protein or environmentally sustain…

Even though—like miso and tempeh—it is made of fermented soybeans, sticky, earthy, funky natto does not receive the same love as its cousins. Slimy foods are just a little bit challenging to sell—no matter how high in protein or environmentally sustainable.

Let’s get the technicals out of the way: Natto is boiled soybeans that have been inoculated with Bacillus subtilis and left to ferment for about a day. The culture is found in a type of straw that was used historically in Japan to store food. Like yogurt, natto’s origin was likely accidental, probably involving an epicure discovering that she liked the taste of soybeans that had been wrapped in straw. Somewhere between the discovery that fermented soybeans are edible and 2020, natto became a Japanese staple.

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Weekend Bread: Rice Cooker Edition

Like you, I have a lot more time on my hands right now. When I’m not writing from whichever corner of my Brooklyn apartment I decide to cram a chair into, I’m in the kitchen trying to cook or bake my anxiety away. Or, I’m watching TV; I just finished b…

Like you, I have a lot more time on my hands right now. When I’m not writing from whichever corner of my Brooklyn apartment I decide to cram a chair into, I’m in the kitchen trying to cook or bake my anxiety away. Or, I’m watching TV; I just finished binging the 2004 anime, Yakitate!! Japan.

The show follows Kazuma Azuma, a baker aspiring to create a national bread for Japan. Because his hands are supernaturally warm, they yield better-, quicker-fermented loaves that continually beat out his competitors’ (spoiler alert). Every episode outdoes the last, with Azuma baking increasingly outlandish recipes whose deliciousness (literally) transport his competitors and critics to another world.

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Quick Soba Noodles

Need a quick noodle fix? These simple soba noodles are fast and full of flavor: perfect as an Asian style side dish or easy dinner. Need a quick noodle fix? Try these simple soba noodles! Soba are a Japanese buckwheat noodle, and they’re perfect as a component for a fast and easy dinner. Done in about 15 minutes, they’re covered in a zingy sauce of soy, sesame oil, rice vinegar, and honey and sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds. Throw them in a bowl and top with an egg or sauteed shrimp, and you’ve got dinner! Because they’re so fast, Alex and I have been relying on them as a crutch for quick weeknight meals. They’re also a great side dish for Asian-style meals like Teriyaki Salmon or Shrimp and Broccoli. Here’s what you need to know about soba! Types of soba noodles Soba are a traditional Japanese buckwheat noodle. They’re easy to find at your local grocery, either in the noodles section or near the Japanese ingredients. Because they’re made with buckwheat flour, most soba are naturally gluten-free. However, some brands also have wheat flour in them: so make sure to check the package if you eat gluten free. There […]

A Couple Cooks – Healthy, Whole Food, & Vegetarian Recipes

Need a quick noodle fix? These simple soba noodles are fast and full of flavor: perfect as an Asian style side dish or easy dinner.

Soba noodles

Need a quick noodle fix? Try these simple soba noodles! Soba are a Japanese buckwheat noodle, and they’re perfect as a component for a fast and easy dinner. Done in about 15 minutes, they’re covered in a zingy sauce of soy, sesame oil, rice vinegar, and honey and sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds. Throw them in a bowl and top with an egg or sauteed shrimp, and you’ve got dinner! Because they’re so fast, Alex and I have been relying on them as a crutch for quick weeknight meals. They’re also a great side dish for Asian-style meals like Teriyaki Salmon or Shrimp and Broccoli. Here’s what you need to know about soba!

Types of soba noodles

Soba are a traditional Japanese buckwheat noodle. They’re easy to find at your local grocery, either in the noodles section or near the Japanese ingredients. Because they’re made with buckwheat flour, most soba are naturally gluten-free. However, some brands also have wheat flour in them: so make sure to check the package if you eat gluten free.

There is a lot of variation in soba noodle brands! Alex and I have tested dozens, and we find that every brand of soba is different. Some are very thin and tend to break, so we try to look for soba that are thicker and hold up better. Make sure to experiment a bit to find the brand of soba that you like best.

Soba noodles

What’s in this soba noodles recipe?

This soba noodles recipe is fast and easy to make, and most of the ingredients are pantry staples! It’s essentially a pantry meal aside from the green onion. So you can leave out the green onions if you don’t have them on hand! Here’s what’s in this soba noodles recipe:

  • Soba noodles
  • Soy sauce or liquid aminos
  • Toasted sesame oil: make sure it is toasted, not regular! Toasted sesame oil is intended for flavoring, whereas regular sesame oil is neutral in flavor
  • Rice vinegar
  • Honey or maple syrup
  • Miso: optional but adds great flavor (see below)
  • Garlic
  • Green onions (optional)
  • Sesame seeds (optional; if you use them toast them!)
Soba noodles with sesame seeds

Rinse your soba to remove starch!

Here’s an important note about cooking soba noodles: rinse them after they’re done cooking! Rinsing pasta is not required for something like Italian spaghetti or penne. But for soba, rinsing is necessary to remove starch the builds up during cooking.

If you don’t rinse, here’s what happens: the soba becomes very gummy and mushy. It also absorbs the sauce and becomes dry instead of saucy. So please: rinse your soba after cooking! You’ll notice a big difference.

A secret ingredient: miso

This soba noodles recipe contains a little secret ingredient: miso! If you’ve never cooked with it, we highly recommend getting a container for your fridge (and it lasts for months). Miso is a Japanese fermented soybean paste that’s full of nutrients and savory flavor (or, umami). Umami is the so called “fifth flavor” after sour, salty, sweet, and bitter. It adds incredible flavor to any dish!

You can find miso at most major grocery stores near the other Japanese ingredients. There are many different types of miso, all with different flavors: red, yellow, and brown. Alex and I used brown miso here, which contributed to the dark color of these noodles.

Since we cook mostly plant based, Alex and I tend to use it to get a meaty or cheesy flavor in recipes. It’s great in Easy Miso Ramen, and even works to substitute Parmesan flavor in our Vegan Pesto!

Sesame soba noodles

Why to toast sesame seeds

For the best flavor, garnish these soba noodles with toasted sesame seeds! Of course, you can just use straight up sesame seeds. But toasting your sesame seeds in a pan heightens the nutty flavor considerably. It’s almost like using salt on food: it brings out the existing flavor and takes it to new heights! It only takes 3 minutes to toast sesame seeds, and you can store leftovers in a sealed container for months. Go to How to Toast Sesame Seeds.

Make it a meal!

Now for the fun part: how to make these soba noodles into a meal! You can serve them as part of an easy dinner main dish, or a side to an Asian style entree. Here’s what we recommend:

  • Top with an egg. The easiest way to make it dinner! Top with a fried egg or soft boiled egg. Dinner, solved!
  • Top with tofu. This Pan fried tofu is our favorite method for weeknights. Or try Marinaded tofu, which requires little hands on effort and can be stored in the fridge.
  • Top with shrimp. Try this quick and healthy Sauteed shrimp! To stick with Asian flavors, use plain sesame oil for cooking and substitute the lemon for a drizzle of rice vinegar and soy sauce at the end.
  • Add edamame. This quick Asian style side is so simple! Try with Easy Edamame or Spicy Edamame.
  • Serve with a stir fry! Try it with our Easy Stir Fry Vegetables!
  • Serve as a side dish to shrimp or salmon. Try it with Teriyaki Salmon or Shrimp and Broccoli.
Soba noodles recipe

This soba noodles recipe is…

Vegetarian, vegan, plant-based, dairy-free and gluten-free.

Print
Soba noodles

Quick Soba Noodles


1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (5 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)

  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 5 minutes
  • Total Time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: 4
  • Diet: Vegan

Description

Need a quick noodle fix? These simple soba noodles are fast and full of flavor: perfect as an Asian style side dish or easy dinner.


Ingredients

  • 8 ounces soba noodles
  • 1/4 cup regular soy sauce (or substitute tamari or coconut aminos)
  • 3 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey or maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon miso (optional; we used dark miso)
  • 1 teaspoon grated garlic
  • 4 green onions
  • Sriracha, to taste (optional)
  • Toasted sesame seeds*
  • To make it a meal: Fried egg or soft boiled egg, Pan fried tofu or Marinaded tofu, or Sauteed shrimp

Instructions

  1. Cook the noodles: Cook the soba noodles according to the package instructions: it should take about 4 to 5 minutes. Important: when the noodles are done cooking, rinse them under cool running water in a strainer, tossing them to remove the starch. Then shake off excess water. If you’d like the noodles to be warm when serving, run them under warm water for a few seconds; you can also serve room temperature or cold. (If you skip this step, the noodles soak up the sauce and become too dry.)
  2. Whisk the sauce: Meanwhile, in a medium bowl whisk together the soy sauce, toasted sesame oil, rice vinegar, honey or maple syrup, miso (if using), and grated garlic.
  3. Slice the onions: Thinly slice the green onions on the bias (diagonally), using both white and dark green parts.
  4. Combine and serve: Return the rinsed and shaken dry noodles to the pan or a bowl; stir in the sauce and green onions. Place in serving bowls, top with sesame seeds and serve. 

Notes

*Toasting the sesame seeds really brings out the nutty flavor! It takes only 3 minutes and you can taste the difference. Store toasted sesame seeds for months in a sealed container in the pantry.

  • Category: Side Dish
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Japanese

Keywords: Soba noodles

A Couple Cooks - Healthy, Whole Food, & Vegetarian Recipes

Easy Miso Ramen

Here’s a quick and easy miso ramen recipe you can make in just 30 minutes! The miso brings big flavor in a short cook time. Here’s a flavor-packed noodle recipe you can make in no time: miso ramen! Don’t get us wrong: authentic ramen from a Japanese restaurant is the absolute best. But the next best thing? Making it homemade. Alex and I are so into these tasty noodle bowls that we have a few different recipes. This one is quicker and easier than the rest, relying on miso paste for big flavor in a short cook time: just 30 minutes! The broth is so savory, also flavored with soy sauce, mirin, and a little coconut milk to make it creamy. Top with a soft boiled egg and you’ve got comfort food to the max. For vegan/plant based, go to Tofu Ramen or Vegan Mushroom Ramen. What’s in this miso ramen? Ramen is a traditional Japanese dish of broth and wheat noodles (here’s a Ramen Guide for more). This ramen broth contains miso and has an intense depth of flavor, which varies based on the type you use. It’s great because the flavor in the paste is so developed, you can get […]

A Couple Cooks – Healthy, Whole Food, & Vegetarian Recipes

Here’s a quick and easy miso ramen recipe you can make in just 30 minutes! The miso brings big flavor in a short cook time.

Miso ramen

Here’s a flavor-packed noodle recipe you can make in no time: miso ramen! Don’t get us wrong: authentic ramen from a Japanese restaurant is the absolute best. But the next best thing? Making it homemade. Alex and I are so into these tasty noodle bowls that we have a few different recipes. This one is quicker and easier than the rest, relying on miso paste for big flavor in a short cook time: just 30 minutes! The broth is so savory, also flavored with soy sauce, mirin, and a little coconut milk to make it creamy. Top with a soft boiled egg and you’ve got comfort food to the max.

For vegan/plant based, go to Tofu Ramen or Vegan Mushroom Ramen.

Ramen noodles

What’s in this miso ramen?

Ramen is a traditional Japanese dish of broth and wheat noodles (here’s a Ramen Guide for more). This ramen broth contains miso and has an intense depth of flavor, which varies based on the type you use. It’s great because the flavor in the paste is so developed, you can get away less simmering time. It makes this recipe work in about 30 minutes, which is shorter than our other ramen recipes. This one also features a soft-boiled egg, which can cook while you make the ramen broth. For a plant based version, head to our Tofu Ramen.

  • Eggs
  • Miso paste of any kind (more below!)
  • Onion, garlic and green onion for aromatics
  • Spinach, carrots, mushrooms, and Napa cabbage for the veggies
  • Ramen noodles (more below!)
  • Vegetable broth
  • Sesame oil, soy sauce, and mirin
  • Coconut milk 
Ramen noodles with soft boiled egg

What is miso?

So what is it? Miso is a Japanese fermented soybean paste that’s full of nutrients and savory flavor. It’s the very definition of umami, which is the so-called fifth flavor. There’s sour, salty, sweet, and bitter…and then umami, which is savory! You’ll also find umami in foods like meats, mushrooms, and cheese: it’s what makes something taste rich and satisfying. (Umami is very important for vegetarian and vegan recipes, which is why miso is so important!)

You can find miso at most major grocery stores near the other Japanese ingredients. There are many different types of miso, all with different flavors: red, yellow, and brown. There are also many brands of miso. You can use any type for this tofu ramen recipe, but keep in mind: each type and brand of miso will bring a slightly different flavor to the broth. So keep experimenting and try them all!

An unexpected use for leftover miso? Our Vegan Pesto.

Keep the broth and noodles separate when serving & storing!

When you serve this miso ramen, you’ll keep the noodles and broth separate. Then you’ll place the noodles in a bowl and ladle the broth over it. Don’t be tempted to put them together! This is because as the noodles sit in the broth, they’ll absorb it.

When you store leftovers, make sure to keep the noodles and broth in separate containers and refrigerate. Of you store leftover noodles in the broth, they’ll soak up all the “juice” and all your tasty broth will be gone.

Miso ramen

Top miso ramen with a soft-boiled egg (or tofu).

Serving with a soft-boiled egg is the traditional way to eat ramen. Alex and I have found adding the egg is important in a vegetarian ramen recipe to add protein to make it a filling meal. If you prefer a plant based recipe, go to Tofu Ramen; it’s similar but has a crispy tofu topping. There are two reliable methods we use for making a soft-boiled egg:

  • Stovetop: For the stovetop soft boiled eggs method, you’ll cook the eggs in simmering water for 7 minutes. The total time is about 15 minutes, including the time to boil the water.
  • Instant Pot: Yes, you can cook soft boiled eggs in a pressure cooker! Here you’ll use low pressure and cook the eggs for 4 minutes. It takes about 10 minutes total including preheat time.
Miso ramen

What is Napa cabbage? Can I use green instead?

For this miso ramen, we’ve called for shredded Napa cabbage as a garnish on top of the noodles. What’s Napa cabbage? It’s also known as Chinese cabbage: it’s light green and oblong-shaped. It has thick, crisp stems and frilly yellow-green leaves. It’s a cruciferous vegetable like other types of cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and kale.

Can you substitute green cabbage for Napa cabbage in this recipe? Well, not really. The Napa cabbage has a mild flavor and delicate texture that makes it just right for this recipe: so try to find it if you can!

More about ramen noodles!

If you’ve ever shopped for ramen noodles, you’ll know there’s a big variety in what you’ll find! Here are a few tips on finding great ramen noodles:

  • Standard grocery vs Japanese or Asian grocery: Most grocery stores give you 1 or 2 options for ramen noodles, and they’re usually dried. If you have a local Japanese or Asian grocery, they’ll have a wider variety including fresh and frozen.
  • Fresh vs dried: You can use either fresh or dried noodles in this tofu ramen! Fresh are our favorite, but dried are easier to find.
  • Curly vs straight: You’ll find noodles packaged with the word “ramen” can be curly or straight. You can use either! Here we’ve used a straight noodle, which works just as well as a curly like in our Mushroom Ramen.

Want to learn more about noodle types? Here’s a review of 6 different packaged ramen noodles.

This miso ramen recipe is…

Vegetarian. For vegan, plant-based, and dairy-free, go to Tofu Ramen.

Print
Miso ramen

Easy Miso Ramen


1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (8 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)

  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 4

Description

Here’s a quick and easy miso ramen recipe you can make in just 30 minutes! The miso brings big flavor in a short cook time. 


Ingredients

  • 4 eggs*
  • 1 cup sweet yellow onion, sliced
  • 8 ounces baby bella (cremini) mushrooms
  • 1 cup Napa cabbage, thinly sliced
  • 3 green onions
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 2 large carrots
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 8 ounces dry ramen noodles
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 4 tablespoons miso paste, divided
  • 1 tablespoon mirin
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup coconut milk (optional, for creamy broth)
  • 2 cups spinach leaves
  • Sesame seeds, for garnish

Instructions

  1. Soft boil the eggs:* Go to Soft Boiled Eggs or Instant Pot Soft Boiled Eggs.
  2. Prep the veggies: Slice the onion. Slice the mushrooms. Thinly slice the cabbage. Thinly slice the green onions. Thinly slice the garlic. Slice carrots into matchsticks.
  3. Cook the noodles (while you make the broth): Heat large pot of water to a boil and cook noodles to al dente. Drain and set aside. If necessary, refresh the noodles under some hot tap water before serving.
  4. Make the broth: In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat the sesame oil and the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the onion and cook for 4 minutes until lightly browned on the edges. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds until just browned, stirring constantly. Add the vegetable broth and bring to a simmer.
  5. Add the mushrooms, carrots, 3 tablespoons miso paste and mirin and cook for about 10 minutes until the mushrooms are tender. Add the soy sauce, coconut milk (for creamy broth), green onions, cabbage, spinach and cook until the spinach is just wilted, about 1 minute. Taste and add about 1 tablespoon more miso paste to taste.
  6. Serve: To serve, place the noodles into four bowls. Top with broth, eggs, and vegetables. Store leftovers with the broth and noodles in separate containers (to avoid the noodles soaking up all of the broth).

Notes

*For a plant-based version, go to Tofu Ramen.

  • Category: Main Dish
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Ramen

Keywords: Miso Ramen

More ramen recipes!

There are so many different ways to make ramen! Here are our favorite variations:

  • Vegan Mushroom Ramen A vegan ramen that’s packed with flavor! Mushrooms, bok choy and tofu accompany the noodles in the warm, savory broth.
  • Easy Vegetarian Ramen The original! A quick and easy vegetarian ramen recipe that’s packed with umami.
  • Instant Pot Ramen Yep, you can even use an Instant Pot to make ramen.
  • Easy Korean Ramen Korean ramen is a different variety altogether! Check out this unique spin.

A Couple Cooks - Healthy, Whole Food, & Vegetarian Recipes

How to Make Onigiri: A Perfect, Pocketable Snack

We think of sandwiches, granola bars, and muffins as great on-the-go snacks. But rice? In most cities in the U.S., you’d be hard-pressed to find a commuter snacking on rice (unless it’s puffed and in the form of a cereal bar).

The same is not true in …

We think of sandwiches, granola bars, and muffins as great on-the-go snacks. But rice? In most cities in the U.S., you'd be hard-pressed to find a commuter snacking on rice (unless it's puffed and in the form of a cereal bar).

The same is not true in Japan—balls of cooked rice called onigiri or omusubi are sold in convenience stores, elaborate food halls in department store basements, and specialty takeout restaurants. Savory and utensil-free snacks, they come in a variety of flavors and designs—some are even shaped like animals!—and wrapped in a sleeve of crisp seaweed (thus, napkin-free, too).

Read More >>