If you visit Japan during the spring season, it is always breathtaking to go view the cherry blossoms (さくら or sakura) in their full radiance. Of course, it is a great experience to go to Hanami (花見) and enjoy a scenic picnic under these pink floral beauties which only come once a year.
Apart from heading to the nearest park to view these in full bloom, this season also lets you enjoy lots of sakura flavored foods, snacks and drinks, which are well-loved across the country!
So, with that being said, let’s discover the many ways this pink flower is utilized to make delicious Japanese Sakura-themed treats. 行きましょう (Ikimashou) Let’s go!
This savory item possesses a crunchy texture that comes from the pickled cherry blossoms. These flowers are picked when they are quite young, after which they are washed, dried, and salted. The cherry blossoms are then cooked with Japanese short-grain rice and molded together to form the rice balls in any shape you like. What a perfect treat to carry along on your Hanami picnic!
Let’s upgrade the Sakura Onigiri! With the cherry blossom mixed rice from making onigiri, one can stuff sweet, fried tofu pockets to create Inarizushi. Top it off with a pickled flower to add an extra flair to this already amazing dish.
The addition of this delicate flower makes these delicious pockets of rice another item you can find featured in a Hanami Bento – the perfect decorative food to be enjoyed during this season.
This is a traditional type of wagashi (Japanese confection) which has both Kanto and Kansai regional varieties. The Chomeiji Sakura Mochi (shown in the bottom half of the photo below), which is commonly eaten in the Kanto region, is a flat piece of mochi rice cake wrapped around red bean paste, that is wrapped again with a salted cherry blossom leaf.
In the Kansai region, the Sakura Mochi (shown in the top half of the photo above) differs in texture. It is made from glutinous rice that is pounded, filled with a red bean paste and then wrapped with the sakura leaf. Nevertheless, both treats are a delight to have when sakura season comes around!
A sweet, steamed bun you can find filled with sweet bean paste that can have chopped, salted sakura flowers or leaves mixed in. The dough may be colored white or pink and once steamed, is garnished with a sakura blossom for the finishing touches.
Do you like bread? I’m quite a fan of it and I totally love the different types of bread you can find at a local Japanese bakery. It’s like bread heaven!
For those with a much sweeter tooth, you may be familiar with Anpan; a bun filled with sweetened red bean paste (anko), but have you ever indulged in a Sakura Anpan? It has a different filling made of shiro-an (sweet white bean paste) with pieces of salted Sakura leaves mixed in, thereby making sakura-an. Food coloring may be added to the paste to give a pale pink color so that it resembles cherry blossoms. Why not grab one at your nearest bakery or convenience store?
Are you a fan of jellies? For sure, I’m 100% a huge fan and will not miss the chance to spoil myself with any jelly snack or dessert.
Sakura Yōkan is a jellied dessert that is made by adding kanten (known as agar agar) from white bean paste mixed with smooth sakura-an. This creates a distinct texture and may be garnished with a sakura flower. It’s a beautiful dessert to be enjoyed during this floral season.
Another delicious sakura jelly dessert that is made similar to yōkan is Sakura Kanten. Due to the gelatin used, this dessert is clear and you can actually see flowers that are set into it before it’s solidified. This produces an aesthetic dessert that may be too beautiful to eat.
Want a savory, crunchy, sakura-flavored snack? Then lookout for the Artisan Senbei Makers who create Sakura Senbei during this season.
This is a toasted rice cracker with salted sakura leaves or petals mixed into the dough. When toasted over an open flame, it produces a crunchy sakura snack with a lovely cherry blossom smell.
Present Day Snacks
Everyone knows about KitKat, but were you aware that Japan is home to over 300 different flavors of this chocolate bar? Sakura is one of the flavors you can get in spring, whether it be sakura mochi, saké, or mixed with matcha flavour, it’s definitely a must-try!
Of course, everyone knows what Oreos are. Similar to KitKats, the Japanese have infused their own cultural flavors to create sakura-filled Oreo cookies. Would you be sharing if you got your hands on a box of these?
By now, I do believe we are all familiar with the biscuit stick snack covered in chocolate, formally known as Pocky. But did you know, Pocky also comes in various flavors, and of course, sakura is one of them! Brown, butter biscuit sticks are covered in white chocolate, infused with sakura, and to bring out that cherry blossom flavor, a pinch of salt is added to finish them off.
Why not try this blend with matcha – what a combination right!
Is dessert a must for you after finishing a delicious meal? For some, it is believed you should always have room for dessert. If so, indulge in a tall glass of delicious Sakura Parfait for a sweet surprise.
Piled high with layers of cream and yummy toppings, the sakura flavor is finished off with some flavored powder or petals.
Another dessert to satisfy your cravings is donuts, but not just any kind of donut. How about you grab a sakura-flavored donut at a Starbucks near you? We are always on the lookout for seasonal finds when it comes to our cravings for donuts!
Sakura Tea and Lattes
At the top of the list of various drinks, I most definitely need to talk about tea first because I am an absolute tea addict! Seriously, I’ve got a box filled with a variety of tea so I’ll never run out.
In Japan, where tea holds great cultural importance, the pickled cherry blossoms can be steeped in hot water to produce an elegant floral flavor, with a slightly salty aftertaste.
However, if you head to your nearest konbini (convenience store), you can find sakura infused in other tea drinks such as Lipton’s Sakura Tea Latte or grab a bag of Sakura Royal Milk Tea. You can also find many infused latte drinks with this floral flavor at a Starbucks near you.
Grab the spring blend of this caffeinated drink to make at home. Starbucks looks to release these seasonally so that you can make your own cup of happiness at home, and also get that spring flower taste. Two in one! What a bonus right?
Do you need something a little bubbly to perk you right up? Ramune is a classic Japanese drink that is known for its distinctive bottle design, sealed with a marble. With over 50 flavors created, a refreshing sakura flavor is included as well to liven up your spring days.
Last but not least, let’s not forget the good ol’ C2H6O, otherwise known as alcohol. Many manufacturers take the sakura season as a huge opportunity to produce limited-edition drinks that will attract a queue of customers.
Find different beer brands which release sakura flavored drinks to enjoy with family or friends. Saké (Japanese rice wine), also known as the national beverage of Japan, is created with a delicate sakura flavor during this season, as people will enjoy a glass of it under the cherry blossom trees for Hanami.
Sakura at Home
If you are unable to access any of these amazing treats, not to worry, you can still bring the distinctive flavor of sakura to your home. Cherry blossoms are picked as young buds, pickled, dried, and salted to be preserved for packaging and selling. This makes it easier to bring some floral flavor straight to your kitchen!
The leaves also undergo the same process to produce pickled leaves or even a powder, so you can source a pack if you are an adventurous foodie who wants to experiment.
Want to sweeten your cup of tea with some sakura sugar? Wait, is that possible? Yes! Sakura sugar is made when sugar is marinated into a neat bottle with dried pieces of the flower. What a cute item to give as a gift right? No? Keep it to myself? Haha, maybe I will! (teehee)
Sadly, you have come to the end of this pretty, pink, florally aesthetic blog! I know, so sad…so very sad! (TT)
We’ve only rounded up the bare minimum of what’s available so you can mentally indulge in all the seasonal treats the sakura season has to offer, but this doesn’t have to be the end of your sakura journey.
Here’s a challenge for you. Now that you are so knowledgeable about the many ways sakura is used in the culinary world, go out there and discover your own sakura-themed treats. Don’t forget to take some lovely photos and keep your memories fresh in your mind, as well as your stomach!
If you’re feeling more adventurous, why not try creating your very own sakura treats at home today?
Feature Photo by Marc Schulte on Unsplash
Join our Cherry Blossom online experience with a local expert in Japan to learn more about this unique time of year!
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