Pomegranate

Traveler on the Silk Road
A Fruit with Its Own Restaurant, Book, and Cocktail

“In cups of azure some seeds are blood;
others are drops of gold.”  – André Gide [1]

The Restaurant: Pomegranate is said to be a native of Iran.  For many years a leading destination restaurant in Tokyo is named Zakuro, which means Pomegranate in Japanese. [2]

Pomegranates

Pomegranates

So the owners of that place must like Pomegranates and feature them in special dishes, right? The Pomegranate has traveled a long way from its birthplace to its destination in Tokyo.  What special Pomegranate cooking would you find on the menu at Zakuro?

The answer is simply, none.  The restaurant is renowned for the beef specialty Shabu-Shabu but they don’t serve any Zakuro in Zakuro.  It’s just a beautiful name.  And the model for a painting in the restaurant.

How could this happen?  Do do Japanese chefs use Pomegranate in their cookiing?

The answer again is, almost not at all.  We do have a recipe for Pomegranate Poached Pears from Japanese Nouvelle Cuisine. [3]

From another Japanese Nouvelle chef, we have some nontraditional recipes for Pomegranate sauce for tonkatsu, a sunomono, a cake and a drink using fresh Shiso leaves. [4]

Pomegranate Arils

Pomegranate Arils

Pomegranate also is not one of the exotic southern fruits so beloved by Cantonese chefs, like Pineapple or Litchi. [5] The fruit was known in ancient times in both China and Japan, but has a more symbolic meaning, with its many seeds suggesting images of fertility and many children.

To this day in rural China, you will see pictures of Pomegranates hung on the walls of homes to encourage fertility and numerous offspring. [6]

In ancient times the Pomegranate migrated from its birthplace in Iran as far as ancient Rome and Greece and the ancient Egyptians and Hebrews were familiar with it too.

In botany, Pomegranate is known as Punica granatum, the Carthage apple, which shows how far the fruit had traveled from its Iranian homeland by Roman times.

The Pomegranate’s travels moved along the old Silk Road and it is a key ingredient in a number of the Pacific Rim cuisines, specially along the Silk Road and into the Middle East.

The Pomegranate followed the high road along the Himalayas through northern India, modern Pakistan and on into China and Japan, where it became a symbol of fertility.

In East Asia, however, pomegranates are mostly eaten just as fruit itself, when they do get eaten.  They don’t usually end up as components in dishes, although there are a few Chinese-related recipes available. [7]

In Southeast Asia, the picture is similar, although there are one or two recipes for Thai salads that incorporate Pomegranate seeds, more or less as an afterthought. [8]

In South Asia the situation is different, and Pomegranate features in many dishes, such as raitas, chutney, and marinades for kebabs. [9]

Nutritionally, Pomegranate is very low in saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium and also a good source of folate and potassium.

Pomegranate is low in calories, with only about 105 calories per 100 grams of the raw fruit. [10]

Some research suggests Pomegranate may be valuable in preventing cardiovascular disease, controlling blood pressure and fighting viral infections. [11]

Some marketers in the West have built whole sales campaigns based on the supposed nutritional value of Pomegranate juice, but they have also encountered problems with government regulators for making excessive claims.

A good source of recipes for Asian cuisine using Pomegranate is a Pakistani cooking site with over a hundred recipes using the fruit. [12]

“As they had no yeast, they fermented their wine with pomegranate flowers. — Zhao Ru-Gua

In Yuan Dynasty China, in the 12th and 13th centuries BCE, we find references to the use of Pomegranate flowers for making wine in Hainan Island, in the South.  So the Chinese knew about Pomegranates from ancient times.  In India, Traditional Ahyurvedic Medicine uses all parts of the Pomegranate to treat various conditions. [13]

So this delicious ruby fruit is a player in the cuisines of the Pacific Rim, albeit a minor player, except in the Himalayan area and along the old Silk Road, where it features in a wide array of dishes. [14] There is also quite a lot more background information about Pomegranate, which has its own book devoted to the fruit:

The Book: For any remaining questions about Pomegranate, its history and culinary roles, the best resource would be its own book, Ann Kleinberg’s Pomegranates. [15] And finally, Pomegranate has its own cocktail:

The Cocktail: Pomegranate is also involved in a number of alcoholic drinks, including Pomegranate Martinis, the Cosmopolitan cocktail, a special kind of vodka, and a cocktail, the Persephone.  Here’s a recipe for that drink. Since the Persephone is known only to a select few, you won’t find this formula in any bartender’s guide.

The Persephone

Ingredients:

500 milliliters Pomegranate vodka, such as Smirnoff’s
500 milliliters Pomegranate juice, such as POM’s
250 milliliters Prosecco wine
ice cubes
1 fresh lemon, sliced thinly
25 grams Pomegranate seeds (about 3 tablespoons)

Pomegranate Arils

Pomegranate Arils

Pomegranate Arils

Pomegranate Arils

Method:

First mix the vodka and Pomegranate juice in a pitcher large enough to hold all the inre  hold all the ingredients. Add the lemon slices and some ice cubes, typically the contents of two refrigerator trays and stir once more.

Next, float the Prosecco on top of the mixture in the pitcher and serve in cocktail glasses. Garnish with the Pomegranate seeds, being careful not to put more than six arils in each glass, or at most seven. You may want to peel and open a Pomegranate fruit and extract the arils manually.  Alternatively, Trader Joe’s  also sells Pomegranate seeds already extracted and cleaned in small packages.

Persephone Cocktail

Persephone Cocktail

“The libation expresses the spirituality of sojourners who traversed the Silk Road.” — Melissa Clemente

According to advertising executive and color expert Melissa Clemente, the Persephone cocktail has its roots in remote antiquity:

We don’t know when it began, but it was definitely a long time ago.  The libation  has evolved over time. It expresses the spirituality of the sojourners who traversed the old Silk Road, carrying materials culture, words, and ideas along the fabled route,” Clemente said.

“This beverage embodies the ancient traditions and commemorates our understanding of why we have six months of winter,” Clemente added, referring to the legend of Persephone and the Pomegranate seeds. [16]

In cooking or making cocktails and other drinks, the concentrated syrup of the Pomegranate is called Grenadine. You can buy it bottled, or purists can made it at home, using a simple, convenient recipe.

For Further Information:

[1]  Jane Grigson and Charlotte Knox, Cooking with Exotic Fruits and Vegetables (New York: Henry Holt Co., 1986 –  http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&cad=rja&ved=0CDcQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.amazon.com%2FExotic-Fruits-Vegetables-Jane-Grigson%2Fdp%2F0224021389&ei=yePZUPmGAs-u2AWL5oDQCg&usg=AFQjCNHUkZYoflWch3uvWFvKxSiLE8sMYg&sig2=k0Bv0gftUtZ6tvCTOFhJJQ&bvm=bv.1355534169,d.b2I
[2] Restaurant Zakuro, 1-9-13 Akasaka, Minato-ku, Tokyo 107-0052, tel. 81.3.3582.2661 –   http://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g1066451-d1659368-Reviews-Zakuro-Minato_Tokyo_Tokyo_Prefecture_Kanto.html
[3] Pomegranate Poached Pears, No recipes –  http://norecipes.com/blog/pomegranate-poached-pears/
[4] “A Japanese Harvest Fest,” — http://www.lafujimama.com/2010/11/pom-dinner-party-a-japanese-harvest-feast/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+LaFujiMama+%28La+Fuji+Mama%29
[5] Yong Yap Cottrell, The Chinese Kitchen (London: Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 1966). She identifies lichi, longan, pineapple, and papaya as the exotic fruits employed by Cantonese chefs in cooking meats.  http://www.amazon.com/s?_encoding=UTF8&field-author=Yong%20Yap&ie=UTF8&search-alias=books&sort=relevancerank
[6] “Pomegranate,” article, Wikipedia –    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pomegranate
[7] “Chinese Pomegranate Recipes,” Mark’s Kitchen  —  http://www.yummly.com/recipes/chinese-pomegranate
[7] “Thai Recipe Using Pomegranate” –  http://ask.metafilter.com/24780/Thai-Recipe-Using-Pomegranate-Seeds
[8] “Indian Pomegranate Recipes” –  http://www.yummly.com/recipes/indian-pomegranate
[9] “Nutrition Facts and Analysis for Pomegranate:” –   http://www.yummly.com/recipes/indian-pomegranate
“Calories in Pomegranate” –   http://caloriecount.about.com/calories-pomegranates-i9286
[11] “Pomegranate juice,” article, Wikipedia –  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pomegranate_juice
[12] “Pomegranate Recipes — Khana Pakana” –  http://www.khanapakana.com/recipe-search/s/pomegranate
[13] Friedrich Hirt and W. W. Rockhill, Trade in the Chau Ju-Kua: His Work on the Chinese and Arab Trade in the twelfth and thirteenth Centuries (St. Petersburg: Printing Office of the Imperial Academy of Sciences, 1911) –   http://www.amazon.co.uk/s?_encoding=UTF8&search-alias=books-uk&field-author=Friedrich%20Ju-Kua
[14] “Pomegranate Culture in Central Asia,” with a focus on Mongolian and Chinese preparations, from The Archives of the Rare Fruit Council of Australia –   http://rfcarchives.org.au/Next/Fruits/Pomegranate/Pomegranate1-94.htm
[15] Ann Kleinberg, Pomegranates (Bekeley: http://www.amazon.com/Pomegranates-Celebratory-Recipes-Ann-Kleinberg/dp/1580086314Ten Speed Press, 2004) –
[16] Robert Graves, The Greek Myths — “pleaded that Adonis should not have to spend more than the gloomier half of the year with Persephone” –   http://www.amazon.com/The-Greek-Myths-Complete-Edition/dp/0140171991
Melissa Clemente — melissa.celemente@draftfcb.com

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