These funny little fruits are Umeboshi – sun-dried pickled plums.
In Japan, this is a delicacy with a long history; traditionally enjoyed with tea or as a snack, today it is most commonly eaten with rice. Similarly to fresh wasabi, umeboshi was prized for its antibacterial properties, thanks to the high content of citric acid. It was used as a treatment for many different ailments, including digestive issues. If you’ve got a pesky winter cold lingering, umeboshi could be the remedy you need!
What does Umeboshi taste like?
Imagine a sour apricot… that’s umeboshi! Despite the undeniable fruity flavour, these little plums are better suited to savoury dishes because of the salty and sour taste. The pickling process varies, ours are made with Nanko ume plums pickled with apple vinegar, hon mirin and honey, providing a tangy sweet & sour taste. Depending on the recipe, umeboshi may be more salty or much sweeter.
Interestingly, the riper the ume is when dried and pickled, the more intense the sour flavour. The citric acid in umeboshi is up to three times that of a lemon so it holds the ultimate sour power!
How do I eat Umeboshi?
Umeboshi is served with white rice, often as onigiri, as it is enough of a seasoning on its own. However, due to its complex flavour profile, it can be enjoyed in a number of ways. The acidity of the pickled fruit, means it makes a great accompaniment for meat. The acid helps to tenderise the meat, while the fruit brings a sweet flavour to your dish. Alternatively, you could use it with a cocktail or chopped up in a salad dressing – it’s the perfect ingredient when you need both sweet and sour notes!