There are a lot of unique flavours in Japan, most of which I had never even heard of, let alone tasted, before I came here. There are also some flavours which I had tasted before and didn't like in NZ, but for some reason I love them here in Japan! I may have sworn that anko (red bean paste) should not qualify as a sweet, but now it's one of the first sweets I'm always drawn to. There's a whole new world of food to enjoy in Japan, so for today's Friday Five, I'm going to recommend 5 flavours you should definitely try whilst in Japan!
Kinako is roasted soybean flour. It has a dry powdery texture, and a somewhat nutty taste. It's often dusted on Japanese sweets, such as dango, where the mochimochi (chewy) texture of the sweet stops the kinako from drying out your mouth.
|My favourite way to enjoy kinako!|
Of course sakura (cherry blossom) flowers blooming in spring are one of the most beautiful symbols of Japan, but did you know sakura is also a delicious seasonal flavour? Most sakura trees do not actually produce fruit, so the flavour isn't a cherry flavour at all. It's actually the flavour of the flowers and leaves themselves. They have been used in traditional Japanese sweets, such as sakuramochi, for hundreds of years. These days the flavour is incorporated into all kinds of sweets such as cakes, macarons, and even kit kats and haagen-dazs ice cream. The flowers/leaves are often pickled when used in traditional sweets, giving them a very strong, salty flavour. For more modern food, they usually give off a lightly sweet, floral flavour.
|I tried one of these sakuramochi recently, but the pickled leaf flavour was too strong for me to enjoy it :(|
|This year Starbucks Japan will sell a "Caramelly Sakura Chocolate Latte". I'm intrigued!|
How could I call myself a Tochigi-an without promoting the pride of our prefecture, tochiotome? Tochigi is Japan's #1 producer of strawberries, and produces 16% of all strawberries in Japan, so you'd better believe these guys know what they're doing. Farmers in Tochigi bred a superior tasting strawberry called tochiotome. To me, the taste is stronger than regular strawberries. It's slightly sour, but mainly sweet. It also has a very strong scent - I can always smell them in the supermarket when they're in season!
|Big strawberries usually don't have so much flavour, but even these big tochiotome had a great flavour.|
It's time for a break in the sweet flavours. Matcha is powdered green tea which is used in the traditional Japanese tea ceremony. Like sakura, matcha is a traditional foodstuff which is now popularly used as a flavour in many modern and western products. The taste is usually a little bitter, which is why matcha tea is usually served with a traditional sweet during a tea ceremony. Higher-quality matcha can be slightly sweet.
Imagine a cross between a mandarin and a grapefruit, and you've got (only slightly arguably) the best Japanese fruit ever - yuzu. It's got some kick to it for sure, but it's well worth trying on its own, as a flavour in other foods, or as a bath accessory. Yeah, you read that right. It's possible whenever yuzu are in season, but traditionally on the winter solstice (December 21/22), Japanese people will float whole yuzu in their hot bath as they relax. It gives off a wonderful aroma, is said to ward off colds, be good for the skin, and...let's face it, it makes a unique bath toy. As a flavour, yuzu is especially common in drinks (both alcoholic and as a tea), and dressings/seasonings.
|ALL THE YUZU.|
|Elizabeth Arden Green Tea Yuzu Eau de Toilette.|
Have you ever tried any of these flavours? Why not tell me some of your favourite foreign flavours or foods in the comments below?
Thanks for reading!