Yesterday evening I met up with my college girlfriends for a movie date followed by dinner. We watched Fast and Furious 6. While this isn’t particularly my type of movie genre, it turned out better than I had expected. Beyond the necessary brawn (Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson) and babes (Gal Gadot) and heart-pumping action, it was also packed with comedic moments. It won’t be something I will remember a few months down the road, though.
After much dithering, we finally settled for dinner at Shimbashi Soba, a Japanese restaurant that specializes in freshly milled soba (buckwheat) noodles. I had the Neba-Neba Chilled Soba: chilled soba noodles in tsuyu sauce, topped with okra, natto, wakame, nori, tororo and a raw quail’s egg.
In frank terms, you may consider this a bowl of slime. Neba Neba means ‘sticky’ in Japanese. It appears that the Japanese have a food culture of slimy foods, common ones include those featured in this bowl of soba. I found the tororo (grated yamaimo or Japanese mountain yam) the most interesting. From its whitish appearance and the way they had plated the dish, I had initially thought the tororo was egg whites. However it was also fluffy, frothy, gooey and did not taste of eggs (in fact it was pretty much tasteless) which made me cast second doubts. It was only on returning home and googling about the Neba-Neba dish that I found out its origins. Tororo is prepared by grating the root, which renders it slimy, viscous and snowy white. Ahhh…
How does the mucilage in these foods come about? As for okra and yamaimo, mucilage is a type of soluble fiber of viscous nature naturally produced by plants for various functions, including protection against microorganisms and promoting seed germination by trapping moisture. On the other hand, the gooey nature of natto is imparted by the reaction of extracellular enzymes produced by Bacillus natto with soybean sugars.
A diet high in soluble fiber has numerous benefits. First since soluble fibres have the capacity to bind water and swell, they help slow down the passage of food from the mouth and stomach and thus produce a feeling of satiety. Second, soluble fibers are also great in facilitating bowel movements. While insoluble fiber alone (the fiber that cannot be digested) promotes peristalsis, stools may become too hard without the softening properties of mucilaginous soluble fiber. It may also act as an antioxidant, anti-cholesterol and anti-cancer agent, absorbing toxins in the colon and preventing some types of cell damage associated with diseases such as ulcerative colitis.
It’s amazing how one meal can perk your curiosity and make you learn so much about the foods around us.