Cherry Blossoms in Japan: More than Simply Looking at Blossoms
The sakura have begun to bloom, and there is hardly a more attractive time of year to visit Japan than now.
Clouds of pink petals are covering the nation as friends and family gather for a week of hanami, or flower viewing parties.
It’s this time of year that sakura flavored goods start filling the shelves. That’s right, Japan’s love for this transient bloom doesn’t just stop at merely gazing at them– they also eat the blossoms and the leaves.
Sakura (桜) means “cherry blossom”, but do not expect it to taste cherry-flavored or you’ll be severely disappointed. The taste is that of actual blossoms and does taste on the flowery side– nothing at all like cherries.
The primary use for preserved sakura flowers used to be for use in sakura-yu, a kind of tea made simply by floating a blossom or two in plain boiling water. The clear, faintly pink tea is slightly salty and slightly sour, and makes an interesting change from green or barley tea.
Nowadays you can find preserved sakura flowers being used for a wide range of foods and snacks.
The main use for the leaves is as an edible wrapper for sakura-mochi, which is a traditional sweet only available during this time of year. There are several variations of this sweet, but the two main ones are chomeiji (Kanto) and domyoji (Kansai) style. Both types are a soft mochi filled with sweetened red bean paste.
The sakura leaf is then wrapped around the whole thing. The pickled taste of the leaf contrasts nicely with the sweet red bean inside, making for a unique blend of flavors.
Another popular way to taste the flavor of cherry blossoms is with sakura-manju. These are also filled with red bean, but instead of a mochi outside, they are a steamed bun.
Of course you can always find sakura flavored candies, chocolates and other confections during this time. Popular restaurants like Starbucks come out with a line of sakura-flavored products, as well as Mc. Donalds, Mr. Donut and Krispy Kreme.
At Malebranche, a famous patisserie in Kyoto, they sell sakura macarons that are even beautifully shaped like cherry blossoms.
Even if it is only sakura-flavored candy, I hope you’ll try some sakura goods this spring if given the chance. After all, nothing says spring quite like the cherry blossoms in Japan!
[post by Beth]
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