Have you Heard of Water Shield? It's a Vegetable and No, I haven’t Heard of it Either.
Called "Junsai" in Japan, it is an ancient ingredient for Japan and China.
In Japan, this vegetable is called “Junsai” and I remember seeing it in my local supermarket, wondering what it was, and then moving on to the more familiar Nori or seaweed area as usual. This is something I do often, and learn to regret when a new menu translation comes down the pipeline to my desk in Yokohama.
During the Golden Week holiday in Japan, I was translating a new Summer menu for Ginza Aster Honten. This is a Chinese restaurant with the unique twist of being focused on the Japanese palate and presentation style. Many Chinese guests will observe the mix of delicacies from across China on the same table, gently arranged in separate servings and feel they are definitely experiencing another version of their exquisite cuisine. I like that fusion approach and I would assume many others have as well since Ginza Aster has been in business in and around Tokyo for some 90 years.
Translation is a Challenge Without "Taste"
So getting back to the translation.
This came up:
I translated it as:
Chilled Jade-hue Reimen Noodles with Water Shield and Snow Crab
I am not embarrassed to say that I research pretty carefully and use online dictionaries, etc., to figure out the exact right word, but I am embarrassed to say there are ingredients and vegetables that I have never heard of, much less tasted.
How can you truly translate a menu without knowing how the combination of tastes in the dish would actually mingle on your palate? I can imagine what it will look like, kind of a clear light-green hued noodle dish with green stringy vegetables and crab meat, but I want to know how it TASTES!!!
I find my stomach starting to growl as I translate and I decide Ill make the trip to Ginza today to give Water Shield a shot. Imagine thousands of years in Chinese cuisine and then a coupling with other ingredients done by an expert Chef who is Japanese and aiming to please the Japanese palate. How will that come out? I’ve also discovered that Water Shield as an ingredient in Japanese food dates back to “Record of Ancient Matters”, “Chronicles of Japan” and appears in Japanese poems of old. I’m so excited!
Reimen, Water Shield and Snow Crab...A New Delight Awaits!
90 percent of all Water Shield in Japan comes from Akita Prefecture in the North. It is high fiber and known to help with lowering fever, detoxing your body and helping strengthen a weak stomach. It has a slippery texture and is often eaten in a vinegar base in Japan. Well, Ginza Aster is giving it to me in a Reimen soup with Snow Crab. Woooo! I have a feeling that is a new combination that comes from the creative thinking of the head chef.
I will try to report back once I have given this vegetable a try and let you know how it went. My company also offers a nice lunch for two at Ginza Aster in our JI Japan Report each month so if you would like to be eligible for this monthly gift, please sign up here. http://jarman-international.us3.list-manage.com/subscribe?u=bab52100390ffe6fef930aaae&id=9725e72f15
You can also learn more about Water Shield here.
Former Deep Japan Writer