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How Sakura Cherry Blossoms are incorporated into Japanese Cuisine

04:43 03/08/2024

When the word sakura, or cherry blossoms in English, is mentioned, elegant dust-pink blankets of flowers fluttering in the gentle spring breeze are probably the first thing that will pop up in most people’s heads.

However, did you know that these flowers are also edible? Yes, you didn’t read it wrong! This beautiful flower is not only one of Japan’s most famous cultural symbols but also a popular ingredient in the country’s cuisine. These foods can be found everywhere in Japan near and during the cherry blossom season, ranging from drinks, and desserts, to even meals. 



In this article, GoEMON will introduce you to some of the most popular foods and drinks made from this beautiful flower. 


1. Sakura Mochi 


When it comes to traditional Japanese sweets, one simply cannot fail to mention Mochi - rice cakes, and for the sakura season, sakura mochi. Made from sakura cherry blossoms, this Japanese treat is a soft pink rice cake wrapped in a piece of salty pickled sakura leaf. Oftentimes there would also be an additional pickled or sugared sakura placed on top or inside the leaf for that extra flavor. There is also another version of this dessert that is famous in the Kanto region, which has a red bean paste filling that is enveloped by a flattened-out sakura-flavored dough and finally wrapped by a pickled sakura leaf. 


Nothing can top munching on this delicious sakura mochi while admiring the magnificent beauty of the cherry blossoms. 


2. Sakura Yokan

 

Yokan - a type of Japanese jelly candy, is one of the country’s oldest traditional sweets. Traditional Yokan is generally made from red bean paste, kanten powder (a type of Japanese jelly powder), and sugar. Sakura yokan is specifically made during the hanami season with relatively similar ingredients, with normal red bean paste changed into sakura-red bean paste (sakura-an). Just like sakura mochi, the maker will decorate the yokan with an additional salted cherry blossom on top for added aesthetics and flavor. 


3. Sakura Tea 


One thing about the Japanese is that they love their tea, especially when it comes to having traditional sweets. This is definitely one of the most delicate ways to enjoy cherry blossoms. Made from salted cherry blossoms and sugar, the tea has a pure, clear taste and unique scent to it.  As cherry blossoms are seen as a symbol of luck, this tea is also often served in special occasions and ceremonies such as weddings. 


4. Sakura Sake 


Sakura sake is a drink that you should try at least once during the hanami season in Japan. The liquor is made by soaking the cherry blossoms in sake, giving the liquid a pinkish tint and a gentle yet distinct aroma and taste of the flower. You can find these bottles sold everywhere across Japan, some even coming with a beautifully preserved cherry blossom in the bottle. 


5. Seasonal and time-limited sakura products


Those who live in Japan know that the country does not play when it comes to releasing seasonal products, and thus the hanami season is also no exception, During this period, you can find time-limited sakura products everywhere in the country, from restaurants, supermarkets, department stores, convenience stores, cafes, restaurants, and so on. Every year, famous chains in Japan will release a special seasonal menu just for the hanami season, sometimes also with a special collection of merchandise. If you are in Japan during this period, make sure not to miss out on all the fun and try some of them out! 


How many of these seasonal foods have you tried? Do you have any other recommendations? Let us know in the comments down below!


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