If you grew up with a Japanese grandma like I did, then you were probably force fed Okayu (rice congee) with ume whenever you were sick or had an upset stomach. In Asia, rice congee is like the equivalent of chicken soup in America.
Ume or Umeboshi are dried, pickled Japanese plums. They are a popular snack item throughout Asia and are believed to have numerous health benefits. In Japan, eating an ume a day is the equivalent of eating an apple a day. Ancient samurai carried ume with them to battle fatigue, and even fight infection.
Having grown up eating ume, it’s absolutely one of my favorite Japanese side dishes. If you can find someone who makes them at home they’re even tastier. Friends from Japan once gave me homemade ume and miso to take home, and homemade beats store bought hands down.
If you’ve never tried ume before, get ready for a shockingly sour taste. In an old episode of America’s Next Top Model, contestants pretended to film a commercial advertising ume. One of them hated it so much that she spit it out! Judges were not impressed.
Another great way to try ume is in candy form. Ume flavored candies are tart, but also sweet, a seriously addictive combination. We can’t guarantee that the candy version still has health benefits, but if you find yourself filled with energy after eating a bag, please let us know!