5 Autumnal Flavors You Should Eat in Japan
Autumn is known as the season of harvest, and there are plenty of foods that are in season then. Here are 5 that are particularly recommended to enjoy during the Japanese autumn.
Sanma (Pacific saury) is a fish so representative of autumn that its name is written with the characters for "fall" and "fish" since they are mainly caught around Japan in that season. It's cheap and beloved by Japanese people since ancient times, and it's also very nutritious. It has EPA, which is said to help prevent blood clots, DHA, which is said to be good for the brain, as well as nutrients like iron. The recommended way to eat it is to simply grill it with salt or have it as sushi or sashimi. Fatty sanma is rich and perfect for fall! For people who don't like blueback fish, it might be good to have it thinly slid and broiled with sweet soy sauce or seasoned and deep-fried. Please try it.
Matsutake is called the king of Japanese mushrooms. It's a high-class ingredient that is at its peak in September and October. It's popular for its mellow aroma so first you should have it grilled simply so you can enjoy its flavor. Its strong aroma and crisp texture makes it go perfectly with liquor. One of the main dishes made with matsutake is matsutake rice. If you cook the rice with matsutake, soy sauce, sake, and other seasonings, the aroma of the mushroom seeps into the rice and it becomes an amazing feast. There are many Japanese restaurants that offer matsutake rice only in the fall, so if you see it, definitely try it without hesitation!
Chestnuts, a nut often used in sweets, comes in season in the fall. It's known for being similar in texture to a potato but with just the perfect amount of sweetness. It's also very nutritious, with Vitamins B and C, as well as nutrients like potassium. The inner, astringent skin of the chestnut is full of a type of antioxidant called tannins, and it's said to be good for beauty. There are plenty of dishes that aren't sweets in Japan that use chestnuts, and one of the most famous is chestnut rice. Lightly boiled chestnuts are placed whole in rice and it's cooked together. The soft and flaky texture of the chestnuts is perfect for warming you up in this chilly season. Also, you can't forget the king of chestnut sweets: mont blanc. There are many mont blanc in Japan made using less sweet Japanese chestnuts, so it would be good to try them and taste the differences in chestnut flavors.
One of the standard autumnal fruits in Japan is the persimmon. Its characteristic astringency and sweetness, as well as its juiciness, are reasons why many Japanese people love them. Also, it's so full of vitamins and minerals that there's a phrase that says "when the persimmons ripe, the doctors lose work." It's especially full of Vitamin C and beta-carotene, so it's great to eat after you've tanned all summer. While it's standard to eat it as-is, you can also arrange it with dry-cured ham. There are probably many people that eat honeydew with dry-cured ham, but persimmons and dry-cured ham are also a great combination! Definitely try it.
Ginkgo nuts are harvested around the time the leaves of gingko trees begin changing color. These nuts have been loved by Japanese people as an autumnal flavor since ancient times. They're known to be plump and bitter, and many izakaya drinking establishments and yakitori restaurants have grilled and/or fried ginkgo nuts on their menu. It's definitely a great snack to have with liquor, so if you have it once you'll grow addicted! That flavor is also great as an accent in stir-fries, so it's often used in Chinese food. They're very nourishing, so people who are still exhausted by the summer heat should eat them to recover.
Autumn is a period where there is plenty of food to feast on, so please enjoy Japan's seasonal ingredients to your heart's content.
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.