Autumn – Japanese season of food
Japanese restaurants and cafes have a habit of changing certain items on their menu every season. And no, we’re not just talking about seasonal food but also food that should be available throughout the year. We are aware that it’s done for marketing purpose but that doesn’t stop us from getting disappointed when a favorite is taken off the menu. But we do like certain aspects of this – like getting to eat amazing seasonal food.
We’re not sure how many seasons our country has – the northern half follows a different pattern from the southern half . So, it’s kind of hard to talk about the seasons in our country as a whole. But the Japanese like to say that they have four seasons – and Autumn is considered the season of food – Shun No Shokuzai. Why? Because it is peak harvest time. The Japanese word for autumn is Aki (秋).
Here are some of the food you can enjoy during the autumn season –
Maron or Kuri ( chestnuts 栗) :
Chestnuts are very popular in Japan during Autumn. You’ll find chestnut pies, roasted chestnuts and even chestnut flavored coffee. Kurigohan ( sticky rice topped with chestnuts) is especially famous. It is made by steaming the rice along with the chestnuts, to enhance the flavor. The rice is also mixed with sake and soy sauce before steaming. Chestnut picking is very popular among the Japanese people. Most farms also allow you to roast and eat the chestnuts that you’ve picked. Chestnut Picking generally takes place the entire September so you’ll have plenty of time to plan a trip during the weekend and go grab yourself some chestnuts!
Matsutake ( Pine Mushroom 松茸) :
This kind of mushroom is very difficult to find and hence it is very expensive. It has a unique flavor and is often mixed with rice. But the most famous dish in which it is used is Dobin Mushi which is a traditional seafood broth. The mushrooms are steamed in a dobin teapot along with other vegetables, seafood and soy sauce and served with lime.
Sanma ( Mackeral Pike 秋刀魚) :
Sanma literally translates to Autumn knife fish. It is at its peak during this season and is also the most prominent of the seasonal food in Autumn. Sanma shioyaki is a must try dish during this season. It is relatively inexpensive and easy to make. The fish is grilled with a sprinkle of salt. It can be eaten with a bowl of rice and miso soup or served with grated daikon ( radish) and soy sauce. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea though. If you are squeamish about eating fish with it’s head still attached, it’s better to steer clear of this one.
Kaki ( Japanese Persimmon [柿]) :
Kaki is the most popular fruit during autumn season. The color of the fruit is the official color of autumn in Japan. It is sweet and slightly tangy and can be had as an afternoon snack or as a light dessert after meals. One of the best ways to eat the fruit is Hoshigaki. Hoshigaki are dried persimmons that are often sprinkled with a dusting sugar.
Ginkgo nuts ( 銀杏) :
Ginkgo nuts are found inside the fruits of the ginkgo tree. The pulpy flesh of the fruit has a foul odor. The nuts however can be a real treat and can be used in soup, dessert and as stuffing. The nuts when freshly peeled and roasted taste slightly sweet. It is also said to have many medicinal properties.
Momiji Tempura ( maple leaf tempura もみじ 天麩羅) :
These light and crispy leaves are a delight to eat. The maple leaves are dipped in tempura batter and deep fried before serving with traditional Japanese dishes and soy sauce.
Have you tried any Japanese autumn dishes? What are the popular autumn dishes in your country? Let us know in the comments below!