Relish the taste of spring with these delicious flower treats!
Sakura may not be exclusively attached to Japan – the pretty pink trees also grow in South Korea and China, yet it is so iconic to the Land of the Rising Sun that spring has become a highly anticipated season, drawing millions of visitors to the country each year.
Here are some delectable Japanese treats available during cherry blossom season:
The sticky rice cake known as mochi is one of Japan’s most beloved and varied treats. During springtime, you can find sakuramochi being sold all over the place. The tasty nibble is filled with koshian (red bean paste) and wrapped with cherry blossom leaf that has been pickled in salt, resulting in a savoury snack that is perfect on a day out!
There are two types of sakuramochi which originated from different regions. In Kanto region, where capital city Tokyo is located, chomeiji-mochi has a smooth, crepe-like surface. Meanwhile, Kansai specialty domyoji-mochi features a grainy texture. Both types have edible sakura leaf you can taste or peel away.
Pink, white and green-hued chewy rice dumplings skewered together make up the cherry blossom snack that is hanami dango. The colours are said to represent the country’s four seasons – green is the leaves of summer, white represents winter’s snowfall, and pink signifies the blooming flowers in spring. Since fall is missing in the equation, we’re going with our own interpretation that the stick is for autumn.
Another sought-after fare available only during spring is sakura kanten, a heavenly jelly dessert. Kanten is the Japanese word for agar (derived from the Malay word agar-agar), a gelatine-like substance used for dessert-making in various Asian countries. Sakura kanten is made up of two layers – the upper part is clear and imbued with sakura flowers, whille the bottom part oozes a milky texture and creamy taste.
SAKURA SOFT SERVE
Sakura-flavoured soft serve ice cream is not as widely available as the matcha version, but you can still find them at stalls near major temples and parks in major cities like Tokyo, Osaka or Kyoto. Should that fail, you can also try Haagen Dazs or Baskin Robbins outlets, which have their own seasonal versions of cherry blossom ice cream.
For a culture largely associated with green tea, from matcha to sencha, hojicha and more, spring in Japan offers something remarkable. Sakurayu translates to sakura tea made from cherry blossoms that have been preserved in salt. Preparation is fairly simple: just dip the flowers in boiling hot water, resulting in an aromatic clear pink-tinged tea that tastes salty and sour. No sugar needed.
The soft, cold breeze of spring is best enjoyed with a cup of hot latte! Any coffee shop will offer at least one cherry blossom-themed special edition drink in the menu. Enter Starbucks, which have ever-ready fans eagerly waiting for its limited edition drinks as well as collectable memorabilia like tumblers and mugs in pretty sakura prints.
GETTING THERE: AirAsia X flies to Osaka, Tokyo, and Sapporo from Kuala Lumpur. For low fares and flight info, visit airasia.com.