As the cold weather continues in Japan, so too does the desire for warm, comforting dishes made with fresh, in-season winter ingredients. In the month of January, both carrots and bean sprouts are full of flavor. They add crisp vibrancy and plenty of health benefits to many Japanese meals, including soups, salads, stir-fries, and many other traditional Japanese dishes.
While you can, of course, purchase these ingredients year-round in regular supermarkets, purchasing them fresh from farmers markets or supermarkets shortly after they are harvested will yield a more flavorful bounty. Try a few dishes with fresh carrots and bean sprouts and see if you notice the difference.
Tips for Choosing the Best Carrots in Season
The beginning of the best carrot harvest actually begins in the fall. However, it extends into early winter, providing fresh, in-season carrots for many months. And while you can find them in many different colors, orange is the most popular carrot in both America and Japan.
Choose carrots that exhibit a vibrant orange color and have a smooth skin. They should be firm, and the carrot should not display any cracks, blemishes, or splitting. When purchasing carrots that are sold in bunches, look for leafy tops that are green and haven’t wilted.
Almost everybody knows that carrots are good for eyesight, but did you know about the other health benefits? Aside from providing a variety of important vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber, they also have plenty of antioxidants. All together, the nutrition of carrots helps to reduce the risk of certain types of cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and other ailments and maladies.
Carrot tempura is a particularly tasty treat. Chopping the carrots into long, thin pieces, coating them in tempura batter, and then frying them results in a delightful combination of flavor and texture.
Tips for Choosing the Best Bean Sprouts in Season
Bean sprouts should feel crisp and firm to the touch. If they are slightly mushy or wilted, or if you see excess moisture in the bag, they are no longer fresh. The sprouts should also have a nice white color. Also, if the roots are still attached, they should also appear light in color, not brown. Bean sprouts do not stay fresh for very long, so it is recommended that you use them no more than a few days after purchase.
Bean sprouts, also known as mung bean sprouts, are also very healthy. The health benefits of bean sprouts include not just a wide range of vitamins and minerals, but also protein and fiber. Regular consumption of mung bean sprouts aids in reducing the risk of heart disease, and improves eye and bone health.
Bean Sprouts Curry Soy Sauté
This dish features bean sprouts and ground pork in an umami-rich concoction of curry powder, soy sauce, and sake. It’s an easy dish to prepare and cook, and may no doubt become one of your favorites!