It is Golden Week–a series of public holidays–here in Japan. So, we took a trip to the countryside to visit relatives. Nothing like sipping on a cold beer while gazing out the huge patio window onto the surrounding farmlands, pregnant with wheat and gobou. Such a stark contrast with our tiny Tokyo apartment, where I never open curtains so as to avoid making eye contact with our surrounding neighbors…yes, the apartment buildings really are that close together.
To get to the point of this post, though, when you give a guest a beer, they’re going to want otsumami, or little snacks to go along with it. This particular relative is a stylish woman in her sixties and always has the trendiest otsumami. She did not disappoint. She sat down beside me, a champagne glass filled to the brim with beer, and proudly presented two shriveled black crescents. Skeptically I asked what they were and she immediately switches to story-telling mode. I soon divulged that they were, in fact, garlic. Not just any garlic, but garlic from Aomori prefecture, which is like the Gucci of garlic apparently. Her friend had a broken rice cooker that would only keep cooked rice warm, not actually cook it. Rather than throw it out, that friend used it to make black garlic. All one needs to do is set the garlic in a broken rice cooker on the heat mode for 17 days straight (guessing this depends on your specific broken rice cooker). Then you will come away with your own perfectly black garlic.
But, uh, why would you ever do that? Because, damn, it really does taste good! It is both sugar sweet and deliciously sour at the same time and has a texture that is almost jello. The only hint of garlic comes through in the aftertaste. She recommended eating two cloves everyday to increase energy levels, but no more than that because it can lead to some yucky tummy side effects. Something tells me, ok the dark circles under my eyes are probably the culprit, that she understands looking after a two-year-old all day and then sitting down to work (freelance translator & writer, represent) might lead to periods of exhaustion. Added bonus, after referring to the all-knowing Wiki-sensei, it is said that black garlic is the key to immortality among more than one Asian culture. So, yeah, that’s something.
Anyone have a broken rice cooker and want to go into business with me? Apparently black garlic can sell at upwards of 5000 yen (about $45 US) per head.