Sunday, March 15, 2009

Things I Wish I Knew Earlier

Whole Wheat Biscuits with Trans-Fat Free Margarine
and Maple Syrup
/ Strawberry Jam

Going through my previous posts, it was 2003 when I first heard (read) about trans fat. Since then I had been looking for trans-fat free vegetable oil products, especially margarine, because that's what I wanted to have on my breakfast toast almost every day, and substitute butter with when baking. Unfortunately, unlike many Western countries, both Japanese government and food industry have been rather reluctant to look into this issue, and I had been jealous of those who can buy Smart Balance or Earth Balance anytime at nearby supermarkets.

It was early 2006 when I bought imported trans-fat free shortening online for the first time and tried it out for baking. It worked fine for biscuits but not when I substituted the butter in a cookie recipe with it. (BTW now they cannot sell this product in Japan.) As for trans-fat free margarine, the one I could find was this thing called "Burgarine" which cost JPY 600 for 250 g! Too expensive. Luckily (?) most reviews rated its taste negatively and I didn't feel the urge to get one.

But the other day, at an organic food shop here in Kochi, not too far from my place, I found a margarine that contains less than 0.5 g trans fat per 100 g of the product, tastes good, can be used as a butter substitute AND does not cost a fortune!

Actually this margarine was already out in the market a couple of years ago; it was just my ignorance that kept me from getting one until recently. But even if I had found it on those Japanese online shopping sites, the shipping fee must have kept me from ordering some anyway.
But now I can buy this locally. No shipping fee necessary. So nothing stops me anymore. :D

They say that "fermented soy milk" is used for the good taste, and palm kernel oil is used to make this margarine solid.

Yes. This tastes good. So far I have tried this on breakfast toast and with the biscuits in the top photo. I didn't take photos but I also used it as a butter substitute for baking cookies, too. It worked perfectly. And according to their website, they use carotenoid from carrots to color this margarine. (They must have read the Little House series??)

Now, the price-- It costs JPY 330 for 180 g. Yeah, still expensive, but much better than Burgarine. Oh, something like this really makes me happy!

Also, last night I worked on my laptop to try out some tips I found on Japanese websites to make Windows XP run faster. They are similar to what's written here. Now my display is in "Windows classic" style and I don't see Windows logo when the PC is starting up, but boy, it's faster! It made my life so much easier. Why didn't I do this earlier? But it's definitely better than not knowing about it at all so let's not complain.

Things are looking up, maybe?

P.S. To make the whole wheat biscuits in the photo, I used this recipe and replaced some of the a.p. flour with whole wheat flour and used butter instead of shortening.



Fiona said...

And it has an adorable graphic of Peter Rabbit on the package. :D

Glad you found something that works. ^_^

Unknown said...

I lived in Japan for a while and I found that Japanese grocery is good. I am glad that you found something useful and trans fat-free, I am always looking for quality goods in the USA.

Anonymous said...

Trans fat-free is somewhat alien to me. I'm quite eager to find out now especially when I'm in a confused state at the present.

If diary product is not encouraged and magarine is far from edible because of polymeric resemblance to plastic, then what am I supposed to eat?

Grr... the scientists are making me so confused.

obachan said...

Yeah, I LOVE the cute rabbit!

Now, in...
To me the emphasis or focus of health food industry is somewhat different in different countries. If you want to avoid genetically modified foods, you might be better off in Japan. But I bet you have more variety of organic and trans-fat free products for MUCH lower price over there!

BTW, the reason why they can't sell Crisco trans-fat free shortening here in Japan any more is the antioxidant they started adding to this shortening a couple of years ago. It sounds like our government is more concerened about the health problem from some antioxidant than trans-fat, but I guess the truth is whether a regulation exists or not. There's a regulation for the former but not the latter because they didn't know anything about trans-fat until very recently and are not paying much attention yet.

Anonymous commenter
I think curiosity is a good starting point, but "margarine is far from edible because of polymeric resemblance to plastic" sounds an overly generalized statement. There must be more detailed information out there if you keep looking.

Here's a website I found, and I think this margarine I posted about here is made basically the same way.

Anonymous said...

I'm a gaijin living in Tokyo, and I really try to avoid trans fat but it's not easy. It takes me ages reading the ingredient list, and then I still don't have any idea if something contains trans fat or hydrogenated oil. Can I ask what the kanji for trans fat is?

I also notice when shopping at international supermarkets, the ingredients list in English would state "partially hydrogenated oil" but the Japanese version gives no indication that the oil is hydrogenated.

obachan said...

Hi Jeanniebayb,

Trans fat is usually written "トランスファット"or "トランス脂肪酸." There's no Kanji for "trans" part -- it's written in katakana.

The reason why you can't find it on the label is not you. In Japan it is not required to mention on the label about hydrogenation or trans-fat content. As I wrote above, the government did not know the existent of such a thing as trans fat until very recently, and still don't think it's a serious problem because "We Japanese don't eat as much butter/margarine as Westerners do." Period. And obviously the leading manufacturers of margarine or shortening in Japan do not want to change their production process to make their products trans-fat free, because it'll cost a lot. Of course they wouldn't want to mention about trans fat on the labels of their products, either, and they must be happy that it is not required at this point.

But I think they're gonna have to change and go into the direction of trans-fat free products sooner or later, because Japanese public has been educated on this issue recently and more and more people -- even celebrities -- have started addressing this issue.

Hydroponics said...
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