Kitchen Culture

tasty tidbits from the old-fashioned Japanese Kitchen


Fava Beans

Sora Mamé


Sora mamé point toward the heavens
Fava beans have been part of the eastern Mediterranean diet (Egypt, Greece, Italy) for at least 4000 years. There are stories of monks from India traveling through China who brought fava beans to Japan in the Nara Period (710-794 AD).

However, the first written evidence the beans were consumed in Japan is mention in a dictionary-like document called Tashikihen  多識篇 published in 1631.

Today, favas (what the Japanese call sora mamé) are welcomed to Japanese tables as spring shifts to early summer.

The Japanese write SORA MAMÉ in several ways:

the calligraphy for SKY + calligraphy for BEAN

This way of writting sora mamé evokes the image of stalks in the field with pods pointing to the heavens (indeed sometimes sora mamé is written as ten mamé meaning "bean from heaven").

Writing sora mamé as COCOON (kaiko) + BEAN relates to the pods themselves, which look vaguely like silkworm cocoons.

By the way, HIBARI is a Skylark and dishes made with fava beans often include hibari in their name.