Outside East Asia, the dish is most often found in Japanese restaurants and some Chinese restaurants, but has also found popularity elsewhere as a healthy food item.
The Japanese name ''edamame'' is commonly used in some -speaking countries to refer to the dish. The Japanese name literally means "twig bean", and is a reference to the short stem attached to the pod. This term originally referred to young soybeans in general. Over time, however, the prevalence of the salt-boiled preparation meant that the term ''edamame'' now often refers specifically to this dish.
In , young soybeans are known as ''maodou'' . Young soybeans in the pod are known as ''maodoujia'' . Because boiling in the pod is the usual preparation for young soybeans, the dish is usually identified via a descriptive name, such as "boiled ''maodou''", or "salt-boiled ''maodou''", depending on the condiments added, but like in Japan, simply saying the name of the bean, maodou, in a Chinese restaurant will produce salt-flavored, boiled maodou.
Green soybeans in the pod are picked before they ripen. The ends of the pod may be cut before boiling or steaming.
The pods are then boiled in water or steamed. The most common preparation uses salt for taste. The salt may either be dissolved in the boiling water before introducing the soybean pods, or it may be added after the pods have been cooked.
Other condiments can also be used. ''Jiuzao'' , made from the highly fermented grain residue left over from the distilling of rice wine, can be used to add fragrance and flavor. Some recipes also call for Sichuan pepper for taste. Five-spice powder can also be used for flavoring.
Boiled soybean pods are usually served after cooling, but can also be served hot.
The beans are consumed by using one's teeth to squeeze them out of the pod. The pod itself is discarded.
The United States Department of Agriculture states that edamame are "a soybean that can be eaten fresh and is best known as a snack with a nutritional punch".
Fiber-rich carbohydrates such as edamame help prevent mood fluctuations by keeping blood-sugar levels steady. Edamame also contains protein, which further helps stabilize blood sugar, and omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to combat depression .
Edamame beans contain higher levels of abscissic acid, sucrose, protein than other types of soybean. They also contain a high source of vitamin A, vitamin B and calcium.