The Appetite of Autumn: Five Fall Foods to Try in Japan
The weather in Japan is generally temperate with distinctive four seasons. The landscape, climate and food change according to season; this is also true for autumn, running from mid-September mid-December, when the leaves produce a riot of colors. People celebrate abundant seasonal produce to get the most of the flavor, the best value and nutrition. There are so many foods in season that the autumn is called “the season for eating”. Here are some prominent foods that you would found in Japan during this time of the year,
Sanma (Pacific Saury/Mackerel Pike)
Sanma means autumn sword fish, which defines its appearance and season. The fish is soft and tastes like blue mackerel. It has a visually appealing beautiful shiny skin. Many sushi restaurants love serving the fish with skin intact. During the fall, they are especially rich, fatty and cheap (thanks to the freezing technology, sanma can be found at stores all year round, recently).
Early September annually, Tokyo’s Meguro district holds Meguro no Sanma Matsuri, where up to 6,000 charcoal -grilled sanma will be given away for free tasting. The event is immensely popular and attracts many visitors.
Matsutake (Pine Mushroom)
Due to the high humidity during summer time, autumn brings about many kinds of fungi, including the most popular Matsutake. Considered delicacy, this autumn treat can be found at supermarkets from the beginning of the season. The price is pricey, starting from ¥100,000 per a pound for the premium grade. Its place in the Japanese cuisine is similar to the black and white truffle to the French.
If you’re not familiar with Matsutake. It’s an aromatic mushroom found at the specific part of pine trees. It has delicate flavor with unique pine fragrance. It can be enjoyed on its own, grilling on an open flame or added to rice or soup. Celebrating taste and flavor of Matsutake is a pure pleasure of autumn for the Japanese.
Japan sweet potatoes are purple on the outside and bright yellow on the inside. Taste like yam, but they’re sweeter and richer. Autumn is the season for sweet potatoes baking on hot stones (ishi yaki imo). They‘re generally sold by the yaki imo man who drives the back-open minivan, making his presence known through the lamenting song. Don’t let the melody scare you away, these sweet potatoes are heavenly delicious. These smoky goodies have a pleasant smell with dense texture. They are so sweet rich that you won’t need any additional seasoning. The yaki imo van are usually spotted in the residential neighborhoods but if you can’t find it, grab a cheaper version at any supermarket from a small stand right at the entrance.
However, if you look for some souvenirs, sweet potato crackers, sun -dried sweet potatoes, candied sweet potatoes might be an answer.
Known as “kaki”, persimmons are iconic autumn seasonal food. This orange fruit is divided into 2 categories: amagaki, sweet (non-astringent) persimmons and shibugaki, astringent persimmon. More than half of the persimmons that come into season from October to November are sweet persimmons. They are round with a flat base, similar in shape to a tomato. They have a firm crispy texture, usually eaten raw. The astringent persimmons are oblong and pointed at the end, similar in shape to an oversize acorn. They are usually peeled and dried to get rid of the bitterness before consuming. Also they can be eaten fresh when completely soft and the bitterness fades away naturally. The dried persimmons usually taste two times sweeter than the fresh and contain higher in calories, hence they were an important preserved food for winter in the old days.
The persimmon trees are easy to plant and they’re great trees for home gardeners. That’s why they are everywhere in Japan countryside. So they are tend to be inexpensive; one persimmon will cost you less than ¥100. The dried product (hoshigaki), would definitely cost more but still very affordable.
Prized for creamy sweet rich in flavor, chestnuts are the very essence of autumn in Japan. These meaty nut, called kuri, are national favorites, and you can’t turn around without seeing “marron” themed foods, be it cakes, Japanese traditional desserts or even drinks. If you are enchanted by the smell of roasting, you can get coal-roasted chestnuts from street vendors in high tourist areas around this time, but these toasty treats tend to be expensive, running ¥500 or more for a small bag. Can’t find this pricey street fare? Try a cheaper version, packaged roasted chestnuts at convenience stores and supermarkets for a good sidewalk snack. However, if you have an extra time, think about getting this fall staple from the mountain—I picked up a bag full of raw chestnuts from a humble vegetable stand on the way up to the Oyama Mt. for only a few hundred yen. You can try home-roasting, or adding them to your rice for kuri gohan, another fall favorite,
Let these five fall foods complete your autumn journey to Japan with their tastiness and varieties.