Hara Hachibu, Umami, and Matcha (Plus a Recipe for Matcha Truffles)


matcha truffles

 

Human beings crave the sense of being satiated. It’s a delightful feeling to be “full” in the best possible sense of the term. For many of us (including greedy-monster me), we keep eating AFTER reaching that optimum place where it feels just right to be perfectly full and not excessively full. How to hit that sweet spot of just-right full, and avoid going over?

 

There’s a wonderful expression in Japanese that captures one way to think about this: “hara hachibu” literally means “stomach 80%,” but, more accurately, it means “you should stop eating when you’re 80% full.”

 

How do you know when you’re 80% full? By mindfully checking in every time you put something in your mouth. And you keep up the mindfulness throughout the meal or snack. You basically keep a “how full am I?” mindfulness meter running throughout the meal.

 

This is impossible if we wolf down our food. Some deep-DNA autopilot takes over with the message, “don’t stop! get your maximum calories while you can!” and it tastes great and you just keep going. You don’t stop and ask yourself, “how full am I?” and assign a percentage, you just don’t.

 

In the beginning I might suggest just two mindful interventions, one at 50% full, and the other at 80% full. After some conscious practice, you can begin to notice subtler percentages like 10% full and 25% full.

 

But 80% is the main one. The same deep-DNA / limbic system / reptilian brain doesn’t want you to stop at 80%, it’s going to insist you keep going. But food in an 80%-full stomach continues to expand, and if you simply put the chopsticks down when you think you’re at 80, five minutes later you’re likely to feel 100% full.

 

You can always eat more if you’ve misjudged, and still feel peckish at what you thought was 80%. But stopping when you think you’ve hit 80 is a wonderful practice, as is the mindful practice of assigning a percentage fullness AS you eat.

 

And no, it doesn’t ruin the pure animal pleasure of eating great food. In fact it adds to it, because turning on the mindfulness “how full am I?” meter has a wonderful side effect: everything tastes better, and you notice more flavors and textures. You notice everything in great detail. It’s like taking a food-pleasure bath.

 

So where does matcha come in?

Matcha has a very special satiety property. It’s one of matcha’s more interesting and pleasurable aspects (one of many).

 

Because the tea is so rich in amino acids, it absolutely pops with umami, that brothy, meaty, mushroomy, oceany flavor that’s packed with glutamates. When you drink a cup or bowl of matcha, you feel sated and happy. You’re not jonesing for anything, you’re just …. sated. You rarely feel and kind of between-meals jones to snack or to mindllessly eat something.

 

This is in stark contrast to coffee, for me at least — i NEED to have nibbles of coffee-friendly foods when I drink coffee. So for anyone looking to cut overall calories, there are many worse ways than a daily, or twice a day, matcha practice.

And on that note, and speaking of tempting nibbles, try these matcha truffles sometime. They’re easy to make and disappear rather quickly wherever they make their appearance.

MATCHA TRUFFLES

These little gems take only a few minutes of prep time, then some cooling down time in the fridge, then a few more minutes to shape the chocolate into balls. They make beautiful gifts for friends, wrapped up in a pretty box. Makes about 50 truffles.

 

  • 12 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped finely
  • 8 ounces heavy cream
  • ¼ cup maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • ½ cup or so Dutch cocoa
  • 1 tablespoon matcha
  • pinch of fleur-de-sel, Malden, or other fine sea salt

 

1) Using a large sturdy knife, chop the chocolate finely and place it in a large mixing bowl.

2) Bring cream to a simmer over gentle heat, add the maple syrup and brown sugar, and stir until dissolved, about one to two minutes.

3) Pour the cream mixture over the chocolate, mix thoroughly until smooth, and pour/scrape into a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone mat (silpat), and smooth it out with a rubber spatula. Cool in the refrigerator for about an hour.

4) On a cleaning cutting board or other large surface, spread several tablespoons of cocoa out.

5) Using a spoon, scoop out about a heaping teaspoon of the cooled chocolate, roll it around in the cocoa with your fingers, and make a chocolate ball, using the palms of your cocoa-dusted hands. Repeat until all the chocolate is used – you should wind up with about 50(ish) truffles. Smaller tends to be better than larger.

6) Line them up on a tray or plate, and, using a fine sieve, dust them generously with the matcha. Roll around some more in the matcha, and dust them again. Top with a very light sprinkling of good salt (Malden-type salt works well here).