Train Food and Seasonal Everything in Japan: Sakura Onigiri, Nanohana Tempura Onigiri

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)

Train Food and Seasonal Everything in Japan: Sakura Onigiri, Nanohana Tempura Onigiri

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
Seasonal Everything in Japan: Sakura Onigiri, Nanohana Tempura Onigiri
Deepfried (tempura) Rape Blossom Onigiri (left), Salted Cherry Blossom (Sakura) Onigiri (center), Bottled Green ‘Strong’ Tea (right)

Train Food: Seasonal ‘Spring’ Onigiri – detail
Seasonal Everything in Japan: Sakura Onigiri, Nanohana Tempura Onigiri

‘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?

9 Responses to “Train Food and Seasonal Everything in Japan: Sakura Onigiri, Nanohana Tempura Onigiri”

  1. PekoPeko says:

    Oh! Paku happened to come home with Sakura-mochi tonight.

    It looks like this.

  2. I’m relatively lucky to have access to Japanese groceries here in NYC, but reading your blog makes me jealous:-)

  3. Lori says:

    I just came back from Japan, there were so many dishes that I had featuring sakura! I didn’t realize it was used in cooking so much. Your nanohana onigiri looks good, I didn’t get to try that one. I guess that’s a reason to go back (not that I needed one!) 🙂

  4. cakewardrobe says:

    That loooks BEAUTIFUL! So simple and delicate.

  5. PekoPeko says:

    Hello Mark
    Yes, NYC is about as close as you can get to Japan without being in Japan.

  6. PekoPeko says:

    Hi Lori
    Oh, looks like you are having a great time in Japan! Your timing couldn’t have been better. You nailed the sakura season.
    Japanese department store food courts, rule!
    Nanohana onigiri was a first for me, though I am having nanohana tonight with dinner.

  7. PekoPeko says:

    So BEAUTIFUL! Yes, like the recent recipes on your blog!

  8. Brooke says:

    I’m envious of your beautiful onigiri!
    I make onigiri quite often, actually, as I usually make myself a bento for lunch. I’d love to see onigiri recipies on your blog!

  9. Peko Peko says:

    Hello Brooke,
    Well, those were some fine onigiri — I guess you have good taste in onigiri!
    We will keep that in mind, an onigiri recipe post/series would surely be a hit! Thank you for the idea!!

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