Edamame is young soybeans, usually still in the pod. Because the beans are young and green when they are picked, edamame soybeans are soft and edible, not hard and dry like the mature soybeans which are used to make soy milk and tofu.
Some grocery stores such as Trader Joe's also sell green edamame that has been hulled and is outside of the pod. This hulled edamame is great for adding to green salads, making edamame salads, or adding to rice dishes or Japanese food, but the flavor of the pod is great if you just want a quick edamame snack.
(Note that the pod itself is not edible).
Edamame served in the pod is a popular appetizer at most Japanese food restaurants and is a great choice for vegetarians, vegans, or anyone wanting to eat healthy particularly since it is packed full of healthy and low-fat soy protein. More and more health-conscious restaurants and delis are adding edamame to their selections, and I've even been to one coffee shop which had edamame on the menu in San Francisco! They are one of my own personal favorite healthy vegan snacks and a great source of protein for vegetarians.
See also: Vegetarian and vegan Japanese food
Wondering how to cook edamame?
To cook edamame that is still in the pod, boil the pods in salted water, or, steam your edamame, then sprinkle with a bit of sea salt. You can eat edamame hot or cold.
If your edamame is frozen, you'll just need to cook them in boiling water (or steam them) for a minute or two.
A microwave can also be used to thaw and cook frozen edamame. If your edamame is fresh, you'll need to boil them for about 5-6 minutes.
Wondering how to eat edamame?
To eat edamame which is still in the pod, bring the pod to your lips, then squeeze or bite the beans into your mouth.
You don't eat the pod, just the edamame beans inside, which will easily pop out. The pods are usually salted, which adds to the flavor and experience of eating edamame. Be sure you have a separate dish handy where you can place the edamame pods after you've eaten the beans inside.
If you like edamame, you might also want to try some more vegan Japanese food recipes here, or, browse a few of the recipes using edamame below:
More soy foods to try: