Category Archives: The Taste of Japan

Top Recipes with Pickled Sakura Cherry Blossoms from Japan

List of Japanese Recipes with pickled Sakura

Sakura cherry blossoms are a classic Japanese ingredient, which not only has a very unique flavor but also adds beauty to dishes. This list of recipes with pickled sakura includes Japanese traditional recipes as well as contemporary westernized recipes as well.


This sakura tea is slightly salty and a very typical drink for celebrations such as weddings in Japan. The flower unfolds in the hot water and adds beauty to the elegant flavor of sakura.

Recipe by: NIHON ICHIBAN


Sakura Rice is a very simple and easy to make recipe with pickled sakura. When cooked with rice the salt of the pickled sakura emphasizes the beautiful flavor of the cherry blossoms.

Recipe by: NIHON ICHIBAN


Sakura Mochi is a rice cake made of sweet rice. It is THE classic recipe for pickled sakura and you can have them literally everywhere in Japan during the cherry blossom season.

Recipe by: BeBe Love Okazu


Sakura Yokan is a kind of jelly also very nice in summer. This recipe is easy and quick to make and the Yokan tastes and looks fabulously and will impress your family and friends.

Recipe by: Bohnenhase


Sakura Anko Mushipan is a kind of Japanese style muffin. Mushipan means steamed bread. It is fluffy and soft and the flavors of anko bean paste and sakura are a nice combination of typical Japanese sweet ingredients.

Recipe by: Bohnenhase


This Sakura Jelly is almost like a painting. Sakura flowers in a clear jelly (made with the pink soaking liquid of the sakura) with a base of dark cherry mousse and cherries.

Recipe by: Hunger Hunger


Sakura Cherry Blossom Cheese Cake is a wonderful blend of Western and Japanese cuisine. The soft flavor of the cheese cake is a perfect base for the subtle aroma of the sakura flowers.

Recipe by: Nina


These Sakura Cookies are easy to make and the simple cookies help to bring out the flavor of the sakura flower. The cookies look really cute and also make a perfect gift during cherry blossom season.

Recipe by: DailyDelicious


This Sakura Layer Cake combines two of Japan’s famous ingredients: Sakura and Matcha tea powder. The result is a wonderful sponge cake with typical Japanese aromas and beautiful green and pink colored layers.

Recipe by: Feast Your Eyes


A Sakura Rare Cheese Desert that is so beautiful with the pale pink on the creamy white. The delicate flavor of the sakura is a wonderful combination to the creamy aroma of the rare cheese.

Recipe by: evan’s kitchen ramblings


The Sakura Chiffon Cake is a wonderful combination of Western and Japanese flavors. The aroma of the sakura flowers blends very well with the smooth and light flavor and consistency of chiffon cake.

Recipe by: Da Washoku Kitchen


The Sakura Macaron is another fantastic example of blending Western and Japanese food culture. The result is a beautiful pink macaroni with the subtle flavor of sakura cherry blossoms.

Recipe by: Bobbies Baking Blog


Sakura Onigiri are a Japanese classic. Enjoy rice balls with the flavor of sakura. The salt from the pickled sakura naturally also seasons the rice. Easy to make – just enjoy!

Recipe by: The Delectable Hodgepodge


The Sakura Roll Cake has a very intense flavor of Sakura due to the Sakura Creme Mousseline filling. The dark pink filling also makes a nice contract to the soft color of the cake.

Recipe by: Traveling Foodies


The Sakura Cake is a very nice recipe for a Sakura Chiffon Cake. The sakura flowers on it’s top are a beautiful decoration and the subtle flavor of sakura blends nicely with the soft chiffon cake’s texture.

Recipe by: Happy Home Baking


This post is based on above recipe for Sakura Cookies from DailyDelicious but it adds a lot of nice photos and text to it, so that we thought it is worth adding it to our list of great recipes.

Recipe by: Nasi Lemak Lover


Do you know a recipe that is not listed here? Let us know and we will be happy to add it.

Hungry? Today’s Menu is… Japanese Fake Food?!

If you’ve visited Japan, one of the first things that captures your attention when going out to eat is the plethora of fake food and drink menu models such as the ones seen in the picture above that are displayed outside of dining establishments in showroom display cases.

The presence of these PVC and silicon-based models make dining in Japan a stress-free experience, which is a true blessing especially for those visiting with minimal Japanese language skills.  But not only are the models helpful for tourists, they are appreciated by Japanese alike when deciding where to go for a meal and/or drink.

As for when and where the current US$100 million fake food industry began, one need not look any further than the food capital of Japan – Osaka.  Born just over 80 years ago, the food and drink model making industry has had a tremendous influence over the entire restaurant market in Japan.  The quality and appealing factor of one’s fake food models can make or even break a restaurant.  It goes to show just how much of an affect on a restaurant’s revenue stream these models have.


If you are planning to visit or currently reside in Japan, you may not know this but some of the fake food manufacturers even offer fake food-making workshops on the weekends where you can create your own personalized models. Every fake food factory has its own schedule but at the fake food facility of Morino Sample in Osaka reservations can be made under this link in Japanese only.


Guest Author: Justin from Fake Food Japan

This post has been written by Justin who is the CEO of Fake Food Japan. With his Japanese partner he  runs a factory and shop for Fake Food in Osaka and also ships worldwide from his online shop, which is in English.

URL: http://www.fakefoodjapan.com/

Umeboshi (梅干)

The Umeboshi also called “The Japanese Salt Plum” is a very popular sort of pickles (漬け物-Tsukemono) in Japan. It is a pickled plum fruit that comes from the Ume tree.

The Umeboshi have a sour and salty, but also, fruity taste. The Umeboshi have been consumed in Japan for centuries.

Around June when the fruits ripen the Ume plums are harvested.

An important part of the Umeboshi pickling process is to let them dry in the sun during three days around July, it is called the Doyouboshi (土用干し).

Then, they are packed in barrels with salt and stocked.

The best Umeboshi are those that have matured for 3 to 5 years because meanwhile the taste of salt softens.

As only fruits of the highest quality mature well over time a lot of care is taken to select the best fruits. During the maturation process the Umeboshi are regularly checked and turned to ensure that they will have the right moisture at the end of the process.

Traditional Umeboshi have no artificial preservatives since the salt is acting as a natural preservative.

The classical Umeboshi contains around 20% of salt, yet, nowadays, new types of Umeboshi are made with lower salt ratio. It is called Choumi Umeboshi (調味梅干).

The Umeboshi’s taste is said to be very sour and salty but then again various types exist.

There are two basic types of Umeboshi the white one and the red one. The red ones differ in the way that they are prepared with Shiso.  Shiso is coming from a plant and is an important culinary product in Japan. The red Ume plums are usually a little bit saltier than the white ones since the Shiso itself is salty.  The addition of Shiso allows the red Ume plums to have a their own very distinctive flavor. Red Umeboshi are very popular in western Japan whereas people in the Kanto area prefer white Umeboshi

Another distinction is made between the regular Umeboshi and the smaller type. The smaller type is called 小梅 (Koume) which literally means small Ume plums. They can be eaten just like this thanks to their smaller size. It is especially recommended for novices. 小町梅 (Komachiume) or うす塩花梅 ( Usushio Hanaume) are made with the smaller Koume type.

Another type of  Umeboshi that can be found is the 調味梅干し (Choumi Umeboshi). These Choumi Umeboshi have lower amount of salt but they have artificial additives.

Actually, the salt is removed at the end of the pickling process so unfortunately the taste partially fades away.  This is why some artificial additives are especially required to restore and enhance the flavor and increase shelf life.

The less salty the Umeboshi is, the more preservatives (Vitamin B1) are required. Thus, the connoisseurs tend to say that it is not real Umeboshi.

Nevertheless, it is a good product for novices since the taste is not as strong as for classical Umeboshi.

Our producer Chinriu Honten Limited was established in 1871 and is well known all over Japan for its great quality products. Chinriu Honten Limited uses the size 3L (between 19 and 25g) and 4L (between 25 and 32g) Ume plum fruit and only the A type meaning that the fruits must not be either wrinkled or with black spots. It is a family owned company that is cultivating  the tradition of Umeboshi of highest quality.

How to eat Umeboshi:

  • Onigiri: The traditional Japanese rice ball. These rice balls can be eaten anytime a day and have various taste but the rice ball with an Umeboshi in the middle is a classic

To supplement rice the 梅八珍 (Ume Hachin), the花梅 (Hanaume) or the Three Years Matured Umeboshi Pickles (三年漬梅干 – Sannenzuke Umeboshi) are the best.

  • Bento: Umeboshi are often used in Bento, the traditional Japanese lunch box. It is very good to give taste to plain white rice. It is also use for the esthetic of the lunch box indeed in the middle of a square of white rice putting an Umeboshi makes it look like the Japanese national flag.

  • Umeboshi with Katsuoboshi: The Katsuoboshi is made of shave dried Bonito which went through a long and complex process of smoking – drying – fermentation.

We can find this Katsuoboshi in the 梅八珍 (UmeHachin) Pickled Ume with Shiso and Bonito flakes. The Ume plum, Shiso and Bonito flakes are pickled together that is why the UmeHachin Umeboshi has a red color. The UmeHachin Umeboshi is a bit less salty than the classical Umeboshi. Also, at first, the taste of Shiso is very strong and, combined with the sharpness of the Ume plum but then it is the smoky aroma of the Katsuoboshi that remains the longest on the palate. It is also great with rice.

  • Shochu: When drinking Shochu with hot water, it is common to add an Umeboshi in the glass. It is very good but it is also suppose to avoid getting hangover. Also, according to the tradition, the Umeboshi must be change at the fourth glass of Shochu.

  • Teatime: Sweet Umeboshi are often used as an accompaniment for tea or coffee. Even the salted version can be used as snacks during teatime. うす塩type are especially good for eating as a snack since they have a lower percentage of salt.

うす塩梅干 ( Usushio Umeboshi), うす塩花梅 (Usushio Hanaume). Of course teatime is also perfect to enjoy the 梅ジュース (Ume Juice) and the 梅ジャム (Ume Jam). With a very fresh and rich taste, it is perfect during summer. Both the juice and the jam can be eaten with yogurt or used to flavor cookies. Other products to eat as snacks are the 梅しぐれ (Ume Shigure), a gummy Japanese sweet or the はちみつ梅干 ( Hachimitsu Umeboshi), pickled Ume with honey that are also very sweet and fruity. Plus, with only have 8% of salt and the addition of honey, the taste is not that salty and the sweetness stays in the mouth, the sharpness of the Ume fruit combined with the sweetness of honey make this product a delicious accompaniment for teatime.

  • Furikake: It is a dried seasoning to sprinkle over rice. There are numerous sort of Furikake in Japan but the Umeboshi flavored ones, 梅ふりふり (Ume FuriFuri), are very popular. Once again it is a simple and economic way to supplement white rice.

  • Seasoning: There are many seasoning made from Umeboshi such as the 裏ごし梅肉 ( Uragoshi Bainiku) there is two version white and red. The red version differs by the presence of Shiso. These paste of Ume are usually used as condiment when eating meat. Indeed, you can either spread it on thin slices of meat before or after cooking it. The white versions also fits very well fish dishes.

  • Okayu: It is rice gruel; very healthy, it is usually cooked for sick people. Okayu is good for health but the taste is very plain thus Japanese people used to put some Ume plum or 梅びしほ (Umebishiho), a sweet and sour Ume plum paste, in it. Nowadays, Umebishiho is used in many more ways. It also fits western cuisine very well. For instance it is very good to supplement meat dishes or as a dressing for salads. It has a bittersweet fruity taste that brings an original flavor to your cooking.

Effect of Umeboshi on Health: 

- Umeboshi is said to be a great source of energy. It has been consumed for centuries in Japan. Samurais used to eat Umeboshi before the battle for energy and when Japan was still very poor and underdeveloped, peasants used to say that even if they had nothing to eat with just one Umeboshi they could work for one day. It is very good for one’s stamina.

- Umeboshi have a high concentration of citric acid. The citric acid acts as an antibacterial and facilitates the digestion by increasing the production of saliva. In Japan, where people eat a lot of rice, the Umeboshi are very good since the acidity of the fruit really helps digesting.

Learn more about the 梅酒 (Umeshu) the Japanese Plum Wine :

http://nihon-ichiban.com/2011/07/10/japanese-umeshu-plum-wine/

Discover many more Ume products and others on:

 http://www.ANYTHING-FROM-JAPAN.COM/chinriu-honten-s/1829.htm

Great Sushi Commercials – Sushiro Sushi Rap

Sushiro Sushi Commercials

Sushiro (スシロー) is one of the largest restaurant chains for belt sushi in Japan with about 200 outlets. Being a national player they are running commercials in TV. They developed a new aesthetics for Sushi commercials giving it a delicious but modern style. Sushiro’s commercials are also called Sushi Rap due to the quick change of pictures and the rap like music, which is using traditional Japanese instruments such as shamisen.


Sushiro Commercial 2012


Sushiro Commercial 2010


Sushiro Maguro Tuna Campaign


Which commercial do you like most and what is your favorite Sushi?

Sakura tea with real cherry blossoms

100 Drinks from Japan: Pickled Sakura Tea / sakuracha / 桜茶

In Japan Sakura tea is a popular drink for celebrations such as weddings or other special occasions. It is made with sakura cherry blossoms pickled in salt – a very traditional Japanese ingredient. In Japanese Sakura tea is called “sakura cha – 桜茶” or “sakura yu – 桜湯”.

Pickled Sakura Flowers

As fresh cherry blossoms can be harvested only once a year, Japanese started pickling them in salt and ume plum vinegar in order to be able to enjoy the Sakura flavor throughout the whole year. Many households with garden and cherry trees used to make their own pickled sakura. Nowadays most people will rather buy pickled sakura flowers from one of the few companies who still make this a product.

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How to prepare Sakura Tea

There are two ways to prepare sakura tea.

Take one or two flowers for each cup of tea and remove as much salt of the flower as you like before using them. Pour hot water over it and you get a light colored tea. It has a light scent of sakura flowers and an intense flavor of cherry blossoms. Although edible the flowers remaining in the tea usually are not eaten.

If you want to further remove tea, it is better to first soak the blossoms for 5 minutes in warm water. You then put one or two flowers in a tea cup and pour hot water on it. Adjust the flavor and saltiness by adding some of the salty water with a spoon.

A common variation is to add a flower or two to green tea when pouring hot water over the leaves. The result is a naturally flavored green tea.

The flavor of Sakura Tea

Sakura tea has a very authentic taste of Japan with a subtle flowery scent and flavor. When the tea flows over the palate the first sensation is the saltiness, which might be a bit unusual for Western people. Then the beautiful flowery fragrance opens up in the mouth. The very unique flavor of sakura is unforgettable (e.g. unique like rose flavor). A nice subtle aftertaste of sakura remains on the palate for a few minutes.

Sakura tea is not only a must for the cherry blossom season but a wonderful drink for a moment of peace and pleasure.

Other recipes with pickled  sakura flowers (under preparation)

Sakura Rice

Featured Umeshu Plum Wine- Nagare Ume Sukkiri from Chinriu Honten

Umeshu Tasting Card: Nagare Ume Sukkiri

Chinriu Honten was founded in 1871 and produces products from Japanese fruits and herbs. The company is famous throughout Japan for its pickled umeboshi plums. Being a specialist in fruits and supplying only the best fruits from contract farmers, in 2009 Chinriu Honten decided to also launch a line of high quality umeshu plum wine.

The word nagareume is a reference to the history of Chinriu Honten. When the company was founded the company name included the Japanese kanji 流, which means flowing. Nagareume (流れ梅) also includes the same character. The combination of words in nagareume literally means “flowing ume”, which also seems well chosen for a liqueur made of ume plums. This also is expressed in the label with features pink ume flowers flowing on a silver colored river. The word sukkiri means “clear, neat” and related to the flavor since this umeshu is not so sweet compared to other brands.

Nagareume Sukkiri is the first of a series of umeshu with different flavors. It is based on sake and made with green ume plums. The plums – together with white rock sugar – marinated in the sake for one year before bottling. It has 13% alcohol. It has a golden color and a nice scent of Sake and ume plum. The first impression on the palate is the flavor of sake and the ume leaves a strong fruity aftertaste.

Nagareume sukkiri is best consumed with ice.


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The Momofuku Instant Ramen Museum

Nisshin Noodles pays honors to the inventor of the instant noodles by opening the Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum in Osaka. English and Chinese audio guidance is available at no cost (2,000 Yen deposit) for foreign visitors and all panels are multilingual.

On August 25, 1958 Mr. Ando invented the world’s first instant noodle product, “Chicken Ramen” after hours of research using common tools in a small shack which he had constructed in the backyard of his house in Ikeda. Momofuku Ando (1910 – 2007) graduated from Ritsumeikan University with a degree of Economics. With the invention of Instant Ramen he created the foundation for Nissin Noodles global business.

What is your favorite Instant Noodle brand, what is your favorite flavor? Share it with us in the comment section.

Japanese Umeshu plum wine

100 Gifts from Japan #2 Umeshu

100 Drinks from Japan #2 Umeshu

Umeshu – also known as Japanese plum-wine – is a liqueur made of ume plum, which is marinated in an alcohol for a year or more.

Origins

About 1000 years ago Umeshu came from China to Japan. It was first used as medicine against a bad through. The word Umeshu first time is documented in a dictionary on Japanese food in 1697. Home made Umeshu is very popular since it is delicious and easy to make. Since a few years, there is a small Umeshu boom and many small breweries launched their own brands. Choya Umeshu is the market leader with around 30% market share, but there are a few hundred brands in the market now with a large variety in flavors.

Umeshu types

Umeshu are first classified by their base alcohol. It is mostly made from four alcohols:

  • Sake
  • Shochu and Awamori
  • Brandy
  • White liquor
Besides there also are Umeshu based on other alcohols such as whiskey, grappa, spirits or rum.Umeshu flavors also vary depending on the other ingredients. For sweetening white rock sugar, black sugar and honey are common.
Nowadays breweries also become very creative in adding new flavors to Umeshu. So far we have seem Umeshu with banana, green or black tea, shiso, lemon grass, mango, passion fruit, ginger, etc.

Choya Umeshu is the market leader for Umeshu famous for the green bottles with ume plums inside. It is a nice product but there are more than 300 other umeshu brands from small sakes breweries which add a lot of variety to umeshu appearance and flavors. Whereas the mass products usually are very sweet the small breweries often produce umeshu with is based on one of their core products Sake or Shochu and often uses less sugar. The pleasure of exploring umeshu is to taste different brands and enjoy the different flavors.

How to best enjoy Umeshu

The most common way to drink Umeshu is on the rock – you can basically enjoy any Umeshu on the rock. The problem with ice is that it quickly significantly dilutes the delicate flavor of most Umeshu.
In summer it also is common to drink Umeshu soda – making it a very refreshing drink. In winter it gets more and more popular to drink Umeshu in hot water – this really warms body and soul. Especially our Shoga Umeshu with ginger is very popular in winter.
You can also use Umeshu for any cocktail that requires fruit and / or acid.


Sake base Umeshu

Nagare Ume Sukkiri
This is a very classic Umeshu based on Sake. It is not too sweet and not too sour. The first impression reminds that it based on Sake, but it then deploys a rich and intense fruity flavor with a long aftertaste. On the rock is a great way to enjoy Nagare Ume Sukkiri.

Producer: Chinriu Honten in cooperation with Ishii Brewery, Kanagawa prefecture
Ingredients: sake, ume, white rocksugar
Alcohol: 12%

Price: ¥1,890 for 720ml



Aragoshi Umeshu

Aragoshi Umeshu is made using flesh of very ripe Ume-apricot giving it a nice orange color. A lot of flesh remains and it is a very fruity Umeshu with a nice shot of acid. Aragoshi Umeshu is very popular in many high class restaurants in Japan and easy to drink – even for people who usually do not enjoy alcohol so much.

Producer: Ume no Yado Brewery, Nara prefecture
Ingredients: ume, sake, white liquor, sugar
Alcohol: 12%

Price:  ¥1,470 for 720ml


Shochu base Umeshu

Hannari Kyo Umeshu
Hannari Kyo Umeshu is a very traditional Umeshu made with rice-shochu. The ripe ume apricot used for production give it a very intense fruity flavor. Hannari Umeshu has a very good balance of sweetness and acid. Kitagawa Honke Brewery was founded in 1657 and also produces a range of sake and shochu. Hannari mean luxurious in Kyoto dialect.

Producer: Kitagawa Honke Brewery, Kyoto
Ingredients: rice shochu, ume, white sugar
Alcohol: 13%

Price: ¥1,260 for 720ml


Nigori Yuzu Umeshu
This Umeshu is a great blend of umeshu with Yuzu – the Japanese lime. Nigori Yuzu Umeshu is made with lots of Yuzu pulp and therefore is cloudy. It has a nice acid and is not so sweet and even has a slight bitterness of the Yuzu peel. With Yuzu as the dominant flavor of this Umeshu it is the best choice for Yuzu-lovers.

Producer: Kitagawa Honke Brewery, Kyoto
Ingredients: rice shochu, ume, yuzu, seishu
Alcohol: 12%

Price:  ¥1,470 for 720ml


Brandy base Umeshu

Joto Umeshu
Joto Umeshu is a very classic Umeshu with a shot of brandy. It has a very nice sweetness and almost no acid, which makes it easy to drink. The combination of honey and brandy gives it a very natural sweetness and also very well supports the fruity flavor of ume. Joto Umeshu is very nice for desert and also matches very well with fresh fruit such as kiwi, strawberries, etc.

Producer: Honbo Brewery, Fukuoka prefecture
Ingredients: Ume pulp, white liquor, sugar, brandy, honey
Alcohol: 14%

Price: ¥1,050 for 720ml


Hyakunen Umeshu

Hyakunen Umeshu is made with 5 years old brandy which gives it a thick and round flavor. It is sweetened with honey and has a very intense and sweet Ume flavor. Hyakunen Umeshu perfectly accompanies a dark chocolate cake and other rich deserts. A shot of Hyakunen Umshu into a glass of Champagne makes it a nice fruity and refreshing cocktail.

Producer: Meiri Brewery (明利酒類), Ibaraki prefecture
Ingredients: ume, white liquor, sugar, brandy, honey
Alcohol: 14%

Price: ¥1,575 for 720ml


White liquor base Umeshu

Kyunen Koshu Nigori Umeshu

This very unique Umeshu is one of our best-sellers. Ripe Ume-Apricot pulp has been marinated in white liquor for nine (9) years!. This Umeshu is very fruity and the liquid is really thick. It has a strong very natural and fruity sweetness with few acid only. As Kyunen Koshu Umeshu has a very intense flavor it also can be enjoyed with soda or champagne and even makes a very nice topping on vanilla ice.

Producer: Kikusui Brewery, Kochi prefecture
Ingredients: Ume, white liquor, sugar
Alcohol: 20%

Price: ¥1,890 for 720ml


Awamori base Umeshu (from Okinawa Island)

Jonetsu Umeshu
This is a wonderful Umeshu from Okinawa based on Awamori. “Jonetsu” means “passion” and it fits well since Jounetsu Umeshu is made with a shot of passion fruit and brown sugar. It is very fruity and has a nice balance of sweetness and acid. Jonetsu is the perfect Umeshu as a starter and also goes very well with fresh fruits.

Producer: Seifuku Distillery, Okinawa
Ingredients: Awamori, ume, white sugar, passionfruit, brown sugar
Alcohol: 11%

Price: ¥1,365 for 500ml


Zuisen Umeshu

Zuisen Umeshu is for people who don’t like sweet. It is based on Awamori and includes a little bit of brown sugar which gives it the dark color. Most Umeshu that are not sweet are rather sour – this is a rare exception. It is not sweet, only has little acid and an intence flavor of Ume.

Producer: Zuisen Brewery, Okinawa
Ingredients: Awamori, sugar, ume, brown sugar
Alcohol: 12%

Price: ¥1,260 for 720ml


Other alcohol bases

Kiuchi Umeshu
Kiuchi Brewery is also making a white beer. In a first production step a spirit if made from the white beer. In a second step Ume apricot is marinated in this spirit for a year. Kiuchi Umeshu has a very delicate Ume flavor with a slight fragrance of almond. It is sweet and without acid and is best enjoyed slightly cooled.

Producer: Kiuchi Brewery, Ibaraki prefecture
Ingredients: ume, fructose sugar, spirit made from beer
Alcohol: 14.5%

Price: ¥1,050 for 500ml