One of the ways Japanese celebrate the arrival of spring is to feast on fresh seasonal flavors. Various buds and sprouts that survived the harsh winter are harvested during this season. Sakura-like pink-fleshed seafood become available too and are both a feast for the eyes and your palate. Here are some of the best seasonal specials that you can enjoy right here in Singapore.
Takenoko (bamboo shoot)
What is it: Takenoko, or young bamboo shoot is the king of all spring vegetables. Fresh takenoko is crunchy, sweet and fragrant, but requires special preparation techniques to get it right.
Get it at:
At Tamashii Robataya
, takenoko is cooked with rice bran for 2.5 hours to reduce its bitterness before being marinated in homemade sauce for 6 more hours. The bamboo shoot is then steamed and grilled till charred before it is served with homemade Kinome miso, a sweet miso paste with chopped fragrant spring buds.
Hokkigai (Japanese surf clams)
What is it: The saltwater clam is not only sweet and aromatic but is good for your body, containing protein, iron and Omega-3 fatty acids. Hokkigai turns bright pink when lightly blanched in boiling water.
Get it at:
Hokkigai are best enjoyed in the late spring and early summer seasons. These highly nutritious yet low-calorie delicacies are soft and chewy, perfectlycomplementing the springy texture and briny sweetness of the tarabagani (king crab) featured in this dish from Hashida Sushi
Sakura Trout (masu salmon or cherry salmon)
What is it: Only during the egg-laying period in spring does sakura trout take on a beautiful pink hue, resembling the color of sakura petals. Consider yourself lucky if you come across this highly sought after fish, even in Japan.
Get it at:
At Sushi Mitsuya
, where fillet sakura trout is frozen for three days before being soaked in salt water. The seasoned trout is then packed inside a vacuum bag and cooked in 45 degree Celsius warm water for 50 minutes. Following that, the confit sakura trout is wrapped in salt-cured sakura leaves overnight, then served with starchy bonitosauce and cured sakura petals.
Fukinotou (butterbur buds)
What is it: Another symbolic wild vegetable during spring time is the young shoot of giant butterbur. It has a distinctive earthy bitterness to it and is often served as tempura or tossed in miso.
Get it at:
Fukinotou is chopped and cooked with miso to make fukimiso. At Kaiseki Yoshiyuki
, the charcoal-grilled ohmi wagyu beef is served with the aromatic homemade fukimiso. The slight bitterness of chopped fukinotou adds a nice kick to the tender beef.
Sakura (cherry blossom)
What is it: Sakura is not only beautiful to look at but adds a flowery fragrance to many dishes too. Preserved sakura leaf is traditionally enjoyed by Japanese as edible wrappers for sakura mochi, a sweet pink-colored rice cake stuffed with a red bean paste.
Get it at: Hashida Sushi
adds a unique twist to Japan’s iconic sakura mochi. Tai no Domyoji Mushi is a delicate arrangement of pink mochi rice filled with seabream and wrapped with an aromatic salted cherry leaf.