Once served only at Japanese restaurants, edamame have made their way into the freezer section of most major grocery stores. Sold both in their pods and shelled, these young soybeans are a healthy and inexpensive snack food, make a perfect topping for salads and hold up well when added to a stir-fry. Cook frozen edamame briefly before serving so that they are tender.
Edamame are blanched before freezing to prevent enzymatic damage during storage. Along with helping to preserve the edamame's nutrients while frozen, blanching shortens the cooking time needed for frozen edamame. However, they always need to be cooked before they are served or used in another dish. Without cooking, frozen edamame are not tender. Boil edamame in their shells for 3 to 5 minutes, drain and salt them before serving. Boil, stir-fry or saute shelled edamame for at least 3 to 5 minutes before using.
Edamame are young soybeans, the same bean used to make tofu, miso, tempeh, soy milk and other soy-based items. These green, fuzzy-podded beans have long roots in Asian cuisine and were originally eaten in China as early as the third century. Popular in Japan by the 10th century, they got their name from the Japanese -- edamame, meaning branch beans. Most edamame available frozen in the United States are imported from Asia, predominately from China, Vietnam and Thailand.
Using Shelled Edamame
Boil the shelled beans and serve them as a side topped with any number of items, such as grated lemon zest, toasted walnuts, hot sauce, toasted nori, garlic, ginger or rice vinegar. Add them to a vegetable stir-fry or saute them with meat and vegetables for a balanced meal. Simply boil and serve the shelled beans topped with seasonings, or add them to a pan with a bit of oil and saute them briefly so that they are slightly browned before serving.
Edamame in Pods
The basic preparation of edamame requires you only to boil and salt the pods, and this is the classic way they are enjoyed throughout much of Japan, typically alongside a cold beer. However, you can easily jazz them up a notch by topping them with any of the same seasonings you would consider for shelled edamame and eating them as a finger food. While the pods are not eaten, their flavor is transferred to your mouth when eating in the traditional way -- by sucking the beans from their pods. If you wish to serve the beans shelled, boil them and allow them to cool before quickly shelling them for use in another dish.
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