Train Food and Seasonal Everything in Japan: Sakura Onigiri, Nanohana Tempura Onigiri (さくらおにぎり・菜の花天婦羅おにぎり)
Just before catching a bullet back to Kyoto, I ducked into the omiyage/gourmet food court at Shinagawa Shinkansen Station (in Tokyo) to get some omiyage for Paku and some ‘bento’ for my two and a half hour train ride back to ‘old’ Japan.
At a kind of gourmet riceball shop, I chose some Sakura Onigiri, Nanohana Tempura Onigiri. (Onigiri are rice balls.) Sakura is the Japanese cherry and nanohana is spring greens and blossoms of the rape plant. Once on the train and underway, I was extremely pleased with my choice!
Train Food: Seasonal ‘Spring’ Onigiri – Salted Cherry Blossom and Rape Blossom Tempura
Deepfried (tempura) Rape Blossom Onigiri (left), Salted Cherry Blossom (Sakura) Onigiri (center), Bottled Green ‘Strong’ Tea (right)
Train Food: Seasonal ‘Spring’ Onigiri – detail
‘Season’ in Japanese Culture
In Japanese cuisine, the season is very, very important. Regional variations are cherished by residents and sought out when traveling. Even simple food in Japan such as that found in a train station or convenience store is expected to be fresh and tasty, seasonal and regional.
Spring: Sakura and Nanohana
Salted Cherry Blossoms (Sakura-no-Shiozuke 桜の塩漬け) in Japanese Cuisine
Salted sakura blossoms (Sakura-no-Shiozuke) and leaves are used in numerous ways in Japanese cuisine the most commonplace being sakura-mochi. Sakura-mochi has various forms but it inevitably has mochi, wrapped in a salted sakura leaf with a Sakura-no-Shiozuke blossom on top. The blossom and leaf exude a potent sakura fragrance. The salt somehow accentuates and amplifies the sakura fragrance.
This flavor and fragrance is much loved by Japanese and appears in many novel forms in contemporary Japanese cuisine. A favorite of mine (Peko) is this Sakura-no-Shiozuke flavor in ice cream. The contract of creamy and salty, all enveloped in the potent sakura fragrance is simply fantastic!
Shio-zakura (桜の塩漬け) Onigiri
Here a salted sakura blossom garnishes the onigiri, but stirred into the rice, as it was still hot is finely chopped salted sakura blossom and leaf. The rice is a light pink with bits of green. I had never had this before and it was quite a delight.
Everyone out there in foodie can surely make this one as salted sakura blossoms are available abroad.
Nanohana (菜の花) Onigiri
Nanohana (rape blossoms) have been discussed in recent posts on KyotoFoodie. Nanohana is much loved late-winter and early spring delicacy. Here the blossoms have been deepfried, sandwiched between two layers of rice and wrapped in nori.
These fresh, slightly bitter greens, lightly deepfried in onigiri was another first for me and was most excellent, a perfect contrast to the light and perfumy sakura!
What do you think?
Have you made onigiri?
Are you interested in onigiri recipies?