Japan is known to take ideas from other countries and adapt them for their own. From castella to ramen to hambagu, the Japanese menu is full of food items that could not exist without outside influences. Many of these foods have deviated so far from the original, clouded in cuteness, mildness or sweetness that they have an absent referent to the casual consumer.
Japan's proximity to Korea allows for a lot of adaptation of Korean foods in Japan. Shin-okubo (one stop away from Shinjuku) is the Koreatown of Tokyo and features several blocks of Korean restaurants teaming day and night with hungry Japanese and Koreans. But the influence of Korean food is not exclusive to Shin-okubo. Kimchee is a household favorite with combinis (convenient stores) and izakayas having their own versions available. But like everything adapted in Japan, Korean food tends to be milder and daintier.
Namuru (namul in Korean) is prevalent in many markets and I would often pick up a little packet of soy bean sprout namuru on my way home from work. On a hot bed of rice, it was comfort food ready in less then two minutes.
Namul, the Korean version, incorporates many types of vegetables, roots, fruits, etc. and most commonly appears before your eyes in the ever-impressive banchan spread. For the most part, vegetables are blanched before being seasoned, but this can also vary depending on the ingredients being used. Seasonings include sesame oil, vinegar, garlic and sesame seeds.
The Japanese bean sprout namuru is milder than its Korean counterpart, deleting garlic from its contents. I am personally a big fan of garlic, but to present a garlic explosion amongst other Japanese dishes in a meal, would be somewhat of an interference.
BEAN SPROUT NAMURU
Prep time: 15 min
Cooking time: 5 min
400 grams bean spouts or soy bean sprouts
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp la-yu (chili oil)
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tsp dashi flavoring (i.e. Hondashi aka MSG) optional
2-3 tbsp ground roasted sesame seeds
1. Put 8 cups of water into a pot and add salt. Bring to boil.
2. Grind sesame seeds.
3. Rinse sprouts and blanch them for two minutes in boiling water. Drain sprouts in a colander.
4. Place sprouts in a bowl and dress with the la-yu, sesame oil, dashi flavoring and sesame seeds.
It's best to dress the sprouts when they are warm so that the oils and flavoring saturate the sprouts evenly.
Namuru is a dish that can be made in 15 minutes with little effort (as long as you have ground sesame seeds). A little bit of namuru will give you a lot of flavor especially if you add a lot of chili oil.