Japanese Foodies and Health Gurus Are Now Obsessed With Swamp Muck

Tokyo Food Food 2022.06.23
Some say eating Japanese “swamp” is the key to a healthy diet.
Sludgy, brownish-beige, and dotted with bits of green plant matter - it's no surprise this new food trend has earned the Japanese name "numa" (沼), which literally means "swamp." But despite the unappealing name and appearance, numa is all the rage among gym rats and health food influencers in Japan right now, who do their best to jazz up photos with pretty plates and colorful side dishes before proudly sharing photos of this food that's the polar opposite of insta-bae.
So, where did numa come from, and why exactly is it popular? The answers all come from Yuki Azami, a Japanese competitive bodybuilder, and a certified chef. On his YouTube channel Muscle Grill, where Azami goes by the name "Shiny Azami," the multi-talented creator posts videos about bodybuilding workouts and all the food that fuels them, including quite a few recipes that don't look particularly beautiful, but taste pretty good and have all the macronutrients (proteins, fats, carbohydrates) he needs. One of those is numa, which gained a reputation for "helping you lose wait just by eating it," a slogan that is far too tempting to just about anybody looking to lose a few pounds. With the promise of keeping diners slim and sated, and even tasting pretty good at the same time, a small but committed group of social media users is regularly posting their numa to social media, despite the lack of aesthetic appeal.
What exactly is numa, other than the supposed food of champions? It's a simple rice porridge that's so easy to make, Azami has said he recommends it for bad cooks. The basic numa recipe has you throw rice, chicken breast, okra, dried shiitake mushrooms, and dried wakame seaweed in a rice cooker with some water and curry powder, and just wait until it's nice and mushy. No doubt the okra slime helps lend it some extra swampy authenticity! But influencers also like to tweak the recipe to fit their tastes and provide new inspiration for their followers, adding different vegetables, or taking away the curry powder and flavoring the porridge with other spices. A common variation is even called "cement," in reference to the lighter color that comes from onions, lettuce, and shimeji mushrooms (although the recipe includes broccoli as well).
Of course, just by looking at the ingredient list it's not too shocking to hear that numa might not have every nutrient needed for a healthy life. With the simplicity of the recipe, made even easier by the introduction of "Instant Numa" that started manufacture in 2021, some nutritionists have voiced concerns that over-enthusiastic dieters might find themselves nutritionally deficient if they actually start to eat numa for every meal of the day, instead of just adding it in as part of a varied diet. So if you find yourself sufficiently intrigued by numa and ready to start up your rice cooker, just remember that this strange new recipe might be part of a healthy diet, but it's not the whole thing. Eat your swamp muck at your own risk!

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