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What’s that crumbly brown stuff on the rice pictured above?

If you guessed that it was some combination of spices, you’re (mostly) wrong. It’s actually the powdered form of a common cooking ingredient that you can find in any Japanese home. In fact, powdered foods in general have recently been drawing a lot of attention in Japan, so we wanted to share some interesting tidbits about them with you. And like the powder in the picture above, you might be surprised by what you find!

Why buy powdered foods instead of the real thing?

When cooking with powdered ingredients, you don’t need to worry about the hassle of washing or peeling vegetables. The fine particles also create an interesting sensation while you’re eating, as if the very foods themselves were melting in your mouth. In addition, powdered and other dehydrated foods have prolonged shelf lives compared with those of fresh ingredients.

Powdered renkon (lotus root)

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Powdered renkon is said to be effective at boosting your immune system and at reducing the symptoms of allergies such as hay fever. Japanese opera singer Keiko Nakajima reportedly consumed renkon powder for a period of five years, after which the allergy symptoms which she had experienced ever since she was a child effectively disappeared. You don’t have to stress about how to eat it, either–one easy solution is to mix the powder into the filling of meatballs or hamburgers. Twitter user @k_parepu offers another idea:

“Renkon powder in yogurt. The powder has a unique flavor on its own, but I think mixing it in with yogurt is a good idea.”

Other Twitter users shared their own thoughts:

“My plan to counter my pollen allergies this year is to take renkon powder. I hear it’s also good for your liver. We’ll see if it works…”

“Because of its white color, I feel a little weird carrying renkon powder around…it looks suspicious.”

That last person makes a good point, so if you’re the self-conscious type, perhaps you should only eat it while at home!

Powdered onion

Onions: red, brown, whole, peeled, sliced, rings.

Quercetin is a substance found in many fruits, vegetables, and grains, with large quantities found in the flesh of onions in particular. It acts as an antioxidant, as well as helping to remove toxins and maintain blood flow throughout your body. Quercetin is also resistant to high temperatures and is easily soluble. Try throwing a spoonful of onion powder in the next time you’re making miso soup or drinking a cup of hot milk, like these Twitter users did:

“I dissolved some onion powder into miso soup for dinner.”

“They say that the quercetin in onions is good for combating arterioscelerosis, so I tried adding some onion powder into my miso soup. It turned a strange color, LOL. Quercetin also keeps your cholesterol and blood pressure down in addition to maintaining your blood vessels and blood flow. “

Powdered soy sauce

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Yup, that brown powder topping the bowl of rice in the picture above was nothing other than soy sauce! It may be strange to think about the common kitchen ingredient in a non-liquid form, but it actually makes a great addition to salads, meat, fish, sautéed vegetables, stir-fry, and pasta, and goes especially well with the crunchiness of deep-fried foods such as tempura.

As featured on our Japanese sister site Pouch, you can enjoy powdered soy sauce on:

▼Rice

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▼Deep-fried things

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▼…or even tomatoes!

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Our writer commented that the flavor and aroma of the soy sauce powder intensified when it was sprinkled on hot foods, where the soy sauce flavor combined with yuzu and hints of cayenne pepper was delightfully satisfying.

And last but not least, powdered alcohol! 

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Alcohol in a powdered form!? Your nose isn’t lying because that powdery stuff (conceivably) in front of you is alcohol–only with the water removed. Apparently, 17 countries in the world have special licenses to manufacture alcohol in a powdered form, which is subject to the same liquor taxes as regular alcoholic drinks. Got travel plans but no room in the suitcase to bring drinks? Just mix some alcohol powder with water and you’ve got an instant drink!

So there you have it. It’s still too early to tell whether this fad is here is to stay, but the next time you see someone sprinkling white powder over his or her yogurt in Japan, at least you’ll know not to assume the worst!

Source: Naver Matome
Top image: Pouch
Images: Wikipedia (PhotoosRobin), Wikipedia (Colin), Pouch, Wikipedia (TrafficJan82)