The unopened head of the bracken fern.

Warabi is the Japanese word for the fern known in English as bracken. Unlike in much of the West, warabi have multiple culinary uses in Japan and neighboring East Asian cuisines; in Japan they’re considered a sansai, which is the vast category of vegetables associated with traditionally being foraged from the wild.

These fern heads can be preserved by curing, either in salt or sake. They’re also cooked fresh in many dishes, often via steaming or boiling, including in soups.

Outside of Japanese cuisine, warabi is eaten in Korea and China too, where they’re preserved or used in soups, stir fries, stews, or rice dishes like bibimbap.

Beyond savory uses, warabi is also used to make warabimochi. This is a Japanese confection made from warabi starch that’s similar in texture to genuine mochi sweets made from glutinous rice, although in modern times warabimochi is sometimes made from the cheaper potato starch.

You can find warabimochi in store at your local Uwajimaya!