I’m not sure if we can really qualify this item as “candy”. But if we can’t…then I’m not sure there’s a classification at all that would fit.
I’m talking about Umeboshi, fools. This delectable treat, delivered to me straight from Okinawa, vis a vis my renaissance friend Frank, landed in my hands a few weeks ago. I put off tasting until I was ready to review them. Now the small bag is completely gone, and I’m in withdrawal. Yes, my friends, I’m now an Ume-head. Check it:
Sure, you can’t really see the…”item” clearly through it, nor can you probably read the text. So it’s probably time for me to tell you what Umeboshi actually is.
Ume is a plum. Umeboshi is a particular preparation of said plum. In short, the sour plum is pickled, and then dried. So what you’re left with is a dried plum, wrapped around its pit:
Intrigued? I know I was. For my money, there’s no better fruit than a ripe Santa Rosa plum. Deliciously sweet, tart, with that amazing last few sucks on the pit, covered with the sour leftovers of the fruit. I was ready to DO this, so I popped one in the ‘ol pie hole.
At first, it’s a very dry experience- a plum pit enshrouded by it’s dried meat. Slowly though, your saliva begins to reconstitute the plum meat. As this happens, the flavor freakin EXPLODES. I’m not talking mild here people, I’m talking about a new kind of flavor and taste experience. You get that salty, savory thing going on from the pickling process, followed closely by the sour plum flavor, with sweet notes. It’s bizarre. It’s a bit confusing. But it’s amazing.
As you continue the dance, the plum meat gets more and more reconstituted, until finally you have more substantial dried fruit meat around the pit. Still, you’re just suckin’ and suckin’ away, enjoying the complex layers of taste going off in your mouth. Soon though (too soon!), as you’re sucking, you’re actually eating the fruit, so it starts to get smaller, and smaller…until you’re just sucking on the plum pit. I keep trying to get more flavor out of the pit, but after a while, you gotta “call time” on a cadaver. Sad, but true.
I keep trying to rack my mind about something equivalent that we have here in the states, and I’m sure that there is none. The big “a-ha!” idea here is the classic, earthy, salty process (pickling, huge in almost all Asian countries) that (and please, excuse the high-falootin’ foodie term) has a level of “Umami”, which is what the Japanese call the deep, savory flavor that some foods posses. But just as much of a revelation is the concept of dried sour plums. Hello? Why the frak are there no dried plums in America? Clearly, it can be done. Someone, hook me up with some!
These two extreme flavors put together-something that most people wouldn’t even think of-is the magic here. Simple, easy, and extremely cheap to create (not to mention 100% natural. Just add water, salt, and air), Umeboshi are genius. Definitely not for everyone (my wife’s had them in the past, said it was the most sour thing she’d ever eaten and wouldn’t try another), but they’re for me. For sure. I’ve found a new, healthy, delicious snack.
Or have I? How the HELL am I to find quality Umeboshi? It’s not really like I can read the packages, know what I’m saying? But again, like everything else, that’s what friends are for. Frank pointed me here as a potentially good bag. Conversely, if you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, check out the store “Akabanaa” in Japan Town (22 Peace Plaza San Francisco, CA 94115-3611 (415) 567-8565). My boy Frankie refilled my supply from there yesterday. Damn, I love my friends!
I highly recommend that those of you out there who crave something new track these down. You might be sorry-very sorry. But at least you’ll have tried, right? LIVE, damn it, LIVE!