So it’s September and that means its time to start thinking about the seasonal Japanese food in Autumn. As temperatures start to taper off, we see 秋 (あき or Aki) ‘Fall’ or ‘Autumn in Japan’ gradually welcome in a change of tastes and dishes. We also look forward to more milder days, cooler nights and the beauty of fall’s changing colour leaves. Here we will introduce some common seasonal foods you can try during the autumn months.
栗 – (くり or Kuri) is a Japanese Chestnut that is seasonal during the Fall. They are small to medium sized nuts and are typically bitter in taste. As a result, they are usually used as an ingredient for a number of dishes, rather than eaten as is. One of the most common dishes is known as 栗ご飯 (くりごはん or kurigohan), meaning chestnut rice. This dish is of course made with Japanese Chestnuts and also Japanese rice and Salted Plums (梅干し – うめぼし or Umeboshi). A typical dish will look similar to the picture below:
薩摩芋 (さつまいも or Satsuma-imo) – is the Japanese sweet potato, which can be found in a variety of colours. Whilst they usually have a yellowish flesh inside, you can also buy purple coloured imo’s too, usually referred to as 紫芋 (Murasaki Imo). Some of the more common dishes that include sweet potato are Imo-Gohan. This is boiled in its skin and served with rice, or for a sweeter taste, the sweet potato is dipped in sweet syrup. They can also be served deep fried as a tempura dish.
秋刀魚 (さんま or Sanma) – known as the Pacific Saury in English, because it can be found in the North Pacific Ocean around the nations of Japan and Korea. The shape of the fish itself is similar to that of a knife. This is also reflected in the Chinese Characters which directly translate to ‘autumn knife fish’.
These fish are usually prepared lightly salted and grilled, usually garnished with a grated radish (daikon). It is commonly served with a combination of rice and miso soup. They may also be served with a variety of other condiments including soy sauce, lime or lemon.
You may also see it served raw as a sashimi dish, and this is becoming increasingly popular, especially in and around Mie. As a dish, it is usually sprinkled with salt and pepper, and served on top of a vinegar flavoured rice as sushi.
Other Fall Foods
茄子 (なす or Nasu) – Has a few names in English, but most commonly referred to as Eggplant (in Oz anyway) or Aubergine. It is typically smaller in size in Japan when compared to its Western counterparts. The Eggplant is a common ingredient in many dishes, but can also be just as delicious on its own. Whether grilled, braised, fried or boiled it is extremely versatile during the autumn months.
南瓜 (かぼちゃ or Kabocha) – Pumpkin is especially common as we enter the cooler months of autumn. Obviously, it is especially delicious as a soup towards the cooler end of fall, but it is also popular throughout the Halloween period. During this time, you naturally see many lanterns and other Pumpkin related dishes and decorations. Happy trick or treating!
葡萄 (ぶどう or Budou) – Grapes are also a common food you can find throughout autumn, especially during harvest. In addition, if you’re so inclined to go fruit picking yourself, you can join a tour or find one of the many farms available. The farms generally let you indulge to your heart’s content, letting you pick as much as you can within a certain time limit of course. Farms can be found in the areas of Yamanashi, Nagano, Kyoto and more.
梨 (なし or Nashi) – Similar to grapes, pears are also a common food that can be picked from farms located across rural Japan. Some of the picking friendly places include farms located in Aomori, Yamagata, Yamanashi and more.
For more information on fruit picking and available farms and tours, I recommend you check out the highly informative site Japan Fruits – the way of Japan. Happy Picking!