Spring is definitely here! Many cherry trees were in full bloom last weekend, petals are falling now, making the ground so pretty in pale pink.
I am Japanese, I adore cherry blossom. It’s in my blood.
There must be some sort of theory behind it, some anthropologists must have studied it. But I personally think it is to do with the fact that many schools have cherry trees in their ground, and all schools start in April in Japan. I saw it blossomed since I was a little three years old going to a kinder-garden for first time to twenty something years old graduating from a university.
Cherry blossom is symbol of new start and growth, separations attached to the new beginning, the sentimentality of it all.
I remember having HANAMI (cherry blossom viewing) lunch at primary school with new classmates, watching petals falling with wind, giggling that a petal had fallen to my soup.
Also I remember the time I went to HANAMI at evening with my family at old castle ground, the cherry trees were so beautiful and mystical in the dark. My dad told me the tale that blossoms there were so pink because of the blood of SAMURAI soldiers who died at historical battle gave me a shiver in chilly Spring evening.
We, Japanese, love cherry trees so much, and we eat cherry leaves and blossoms as well as just looking at them.
Traditional Japanese cooking use some seasonal leaves, not only cherry tree, but also oak leaves for May, bamboo leaves, some area use some camellia for winter, so on and on. (we don’t actually eat oak or bamboo, camellia leaves, but just used for flavour and decoration)
Cherry leaf and blossom can be salted and stored, and eaten. It has special smell, which I associate with Spring.
One of popular sweet dish using cherry leave is this SAKURA-MOCHI. You can buy it at any Japanese traditional cake shop (WAGASHI-YA) in Japan in April.
This one is popular type in West Japan, as this use DOUMYOUJI-KO (cracked glutinous rice).
In East Japan, we use glutinous rice powder and make thin pancake to roll ANKO (azuki paste). I actually grew up with East Japan style one, but I prefer this West Japan version.
KOSHI-ANN (sieved azuki paste) is covered with pink dumpling made with DOMYOUJI-KO (cracked glutinous rice). Then rolled with salted cherry leaves.
To make this, I needed to get cherry leaves, DOUMYOUJI-KO (cracked glutinous rice), KOSHI-ANN (sieved azuki paste) powder from Japanese baking shop via my mum’s.
I always think it is strange that I start making those Japanese treat which I never made while I was in Japan. I’d always thought it was something I just bought from shop. But in Belfast, I need to make one if I want to eat it, and I learnt how to.
It’s a strange combination of sweetness of Azuki beans and saltiness of cherry leaves. There is nothing like this smell and taste, it’s very special.
If you happen to be in Japan in Spring, or in large city somewhere in the world with a really good Japanese deli, and see this treat, please give a go. It is the taste of Japanese Spring.
Enjoy the last weekend of April!
Happy Fiesta Friday!!