Thursday, 5 November 2015

Momiji Tempura

The Japanese celebration of the first cherry blossom of spring, Hanami, is of course legendary. But the Japanese are well known for their celebration of all aspects of nature, Sun & Moon festivals, water, fire and the seasons. This goes back to their home grown, atavistic Shinto belief system. In autumn and particularly in Osaka, Japanese Maple leaves are traditionally a seasonal snack. People collect fallen maple leaves, then preserve them in salt barrels for more than a year. Cooks then fry them in a sweet batter for about 20 minutes to produce a pretty and tasty treat. Some people say the salting stage is unnecessary but it serves several valuable functions: salting softens and breaks down tannins in the leaves, sterilizes the leaves of pathogenic bacteria, provides a benign primary fermentation, and draws excess water out of the leaves by osmosis. Keep it traditional!

The Japanese maple is called "momiji" (もみじ), and Minoo City is famous for its momiji tempura. Minoo is also known for its Japanese maples. And there's a long history of momiji tempura in Osaka with accounts saying the food was first prepared over a thousand years ago. The red leaves are said to make the tempura an interesting color.

The Japanese word "momiji" is said to have two meanings, both of them appropriate for the description of this wonderful tree: "baby's hands" and "becomes crimson leaves." Depending upon the cultivated variety, the maple leaves can either be broad, flat and palm-shaped, or lacy, but whichever type it is, it does resemble baby’s hands. Well, polydactyloid baby's hands but you get the picture. 

Although the relationship goes back thousands of years, the Japanese Red Maple has been cultured intensively for ‘only’ 300 years. This maple is native to China and Japan.  It is also a popular bonsai subject in Japan. At maturity, these amazing trees can reach heights varying from two to over thirty feet. Waiting for the leaves to fall before harvesting is therefore a jolly good idea. 

Tempura Japanese Maple Leaves Recipe

1. Clean Japanese red maple leaves with a wet towel
2. Make tempura batter (see recipe)
3. Heat vegetable oil in a deep pan to 350 F degree
4. Lightly dip one side of a Japanese maple leaf in the batter
5. Immediately fry them until brown
6. Drain tempura on a rack
7. Enjoy
Tempura Recipe

1. Beat 1 egg in a bowl
2. Add 1 cup ice water
3. Add 1 cup sifted all purpose flour
4. Mix Lightly (Be careful not to overmix)

North Utsire

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