Winter brings a lot of change as temperatures drop. Yet, regardless of whether the concept of winter spurs happiness or dread for you, the special food of the season is bound to give us all a reason to smile. We created a list of foods that you can look forward to finding in the supermarket this winter season.
Sweet Red Bean Soup (Oshiruko)
Oshiruko is a warm soup that is made of red beans called adzuki beans. In contrast to Zenzai, which is another sweet red bean soup that is served with the beans still holding their shape, Oshiruko is served smooth and blended. It is also typically topped with squares of toasted mochi which help add to the feeling of warmth that the dish gives you when you eat it. While it can be made at home, during the winter it is also available — pre made— at the supermarket.
Oden, a dish that can often be found at izakayas, is a collection of ingredients like fish cake, tofu, and daikon that have all absorbed a delicious flavor from being stewed in a dashi broth for multiple hours. It is available at conbinis (convenience stores) and supermarkets only during the winter — so make sure to add it to your shopping list and get it while you can!
Strawberries are a delicious, seasonal winter fruit in Japan. Different from the strawberries you get in the United States which are harvested in the spring, Japanese strawberries are grown in elevated beds in vinyl greenhouses and therefore able to be harvested sooner during the winter months. They are very sweet, and since they are especially plentiful in the winter, take care to enjoy them while they’re in their best condition!
Another seasonal fruit for winter is mikan, otherwise known as Japanese oranges. Mikan are a large part of Japanese culture. From the various ways they can be eaten, to the many important health benefits they offer, to the “Mikan” festivals that are even held in their honor during the winter — they are not only delicious, but hold a history and cultural significance for many within Japanese communities.
Yuzu is another seasonal citrus fruit that, though it is available year round, is most plentiful and delicious in the winter. While you can, of course, simply just eat it, yuzu is particularly popular to buy at this time because of the traditional Yuzu bath which is performed to bring good luck for the coming year. For more details about Yuzu in Japan, check out this other article we have: https://arigatojapan.co.jp/japanese-yuzu/
Oysters are a winter delicacy in Japan and while you may prefer to eat them at a restaurant or purchase them from a fish market, they are also available at the supermarket for your convenience during this time!
Amazake is a sweet drink made from white rice that can be consumed warm or cold, but its warm version is particularly popular in the winter months! From personal experience, it is a great drink to get while you walk throughout a winter festival. While it can be found at Yatai stands (food stands) or traditional sweet shops, it is also available at the supermarket and local convenience stores. Please note that amazake can be made in two ways: either from malted rice (rice koji) which is non alcoholic or from sake lees which contains small traces of alcohol. Nevertheless, both versions offer a good level of nutrients so I would definitely recommend giving either one a try!
Colder temperatures offer a good opportunity for chocolate sales in Japan as summer is often so hot that chocolate risks melting before it’s even purchased or eaten! In response, many brands release limited edition flavors or products during the wintertime. One example is Meltykiss, a chocolate produced by Meiji that has been offered only in the winter since 1992. It is soft and intended to quickly melt in your mouth similar to the way that snow would! Moreover, they have special, alcohol infused flavors that are intended to provide an extra layer of warmth against cold.
From sweets to fruits to drinks, the upcoming winter season has much to offer to keep your belly happy and warm. Most importantly, there are many options (like those mentioned above) that can be enjoyed for a generous price as Japanese supermarkets have reliably tasty snacks that are sure to leave you satisfied throughout the new year!
Learn more about Japanese food and seasonal dishes on our online experience!