JAPAN’S POTATO LINGO & LORE:

Nov 3, 2023 | Recipes

In Japan today, two types of Western-style potatoes are regularly enjoyed: mékuin (May Queen) and danshaku (“Baron”). The former was developed in Great Britain at the beginning of the 20th century and made its way to Japan via America shortly thereafter. Mékuin potatoes are oval-shaped with waxy flesh that does not crumble easily; it is the spud of choice when making slow-simmered stews or curry rice.

Danshaku (literally “Baron”) on the other hand, is a round, starchy potato that turns quite fluffy when cooked – perfect for mashing, and for making miso kampura. Danshaku is so named for Baron Ryukichi Kawada who first brought the potato to Japan from Scotland where he studied shipbuilding in the 1870’s.

Miso Kampura

Only in Fukushima will you hear Western-style potatoes being called kampura. The rest of Japan calls these spuds jagaimo, literally “the tuber from Jakarta.”

There are two explanations advanced for how the word kampura came into use. One of these suggests that because potatoes resemble turnips – kabu in Japanese – that over time the word kabu came to sound like kampura. The other explanation proffered is that kampura is a slurred version of the Dutch word for potato, aardappel.

MISO KAMPURA, potatoes braised till tender with skins intact then finished in a fast-reducing sweet-and-savory miso sauce. Try making this Fukushima specialty in your kitchen.

 

The November newsletter features potatoes. Download a copy from the archives (and subscribe to receive your own copy of future newsletters).

To explore the many culinary uses of potatoes in Japanese cookery: visit Project Potato.

Miso Soup

Miso Soup

An Honorable Bowl of Soup The Japanese have several words to describe their ubiquitous soup seasoned and enriched with miso. The prosaic miso shiru 味噌汁 is a generic word meaning "miso-thickened broth" while miso ji-daté 味噌仕立て is a functional, culinary term meaning...

Kumquats

Kumquats

Kumquats are called kinkan 金柑 in Japanese, meaning "golden citrus."  The fruit is native to south-east China where they have been cultivated for hundreds of years, though the scientific name is Citrus japonica. There are dozens of varities of kumquats but the round...

TONBURI: Caviar of the Fields

TONBURI: Caviar of the Fields

The Japanese eat a number of "unusual" foods, and TONBURI (とんぶり) surely qualifies as one of them. Tonburi are the seeds of Kochia scoparia/Bassia scoparia,  also known as 箒草 hōki-gusa. Branches of the mature kochia plant are crafted into hōki brooms (yes, brooms that...

Kakashi Guarding the Fields

Kakashi Guarding the Fields

Farmers around the world deploy “scarecrows” to guard their crops from undesirable flying, crawling, and burrowing creatures. Japan’s kakashi 案山子 scarecrows that stand guard over rice fields tend to be more whimsical than frightening figures. Above, rice fields in...

Recent Posts & Projects