Haru no aji is seasonal cooking in the Spring.
Spring is the time when many of the common vegetables are just in bud, but there are many of the more bitter-flavored veggies ready at this time.
These bitter vegetables tend to have a tougher texture and so are typically boiled or fried.
Takenoko are bamboo shoots. In the Spring they’re just poking through the surface, before growing to become a full tree.
The young shoots are edible and, while tough, are solid like full-grown bamboo.
They are boiled in big pots and used in a variety of dishes such as tosani. Tosani is takenoko boiled in a soy sauce base with katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes).
Or you’ll probably more commonly see takenoko used in takenoko-gohan. This is where the takenoko is placed inside a rice cooker along with some other ingredients like shoyu (soy sauce), shio (salt), and chicken.
Sansai literally translated into mountain vegetables. They’re found all over the hillsides near rice fields.
They’re super bitter and so they are boiled before being eaten. After they’re boiled they are typically cooled and consumed with shoyu and katsuobushi.
Sometimes they’re stir-fried with shoyu and sato (sugar).
Common types of sansai are: warabi, zemmai, fuki, and seri.
In the spring there are a few varieties of seafood you’ll find on the menu and in supermarkets.
- Tai – is sea bream. It has special meaning in many traditional events and you’ll see it used in special dishes for weddings or birthdays too.
- Sawara – is Spanish mackerel. Often you’ll see it filleted, salted, and grilled (called shio-yaki).
- Hamaguri – are clams. They are used in dishes vital to the hina-matsuri (the Doll’s Festival in March). They are typically cooked in their shells
- Asari – are short-necked clams. They are “in season” between February to April. You will find asari most commonly used in miso shiru (miso soup).
A quick note about sunadashi. The word translates to sand out. It’s a process where shellfish are soaked in saltwater for a couple of days so they can eject any sand inside the shell.
You’ll sometimes experience a hard crunch when enjoying a bowl of miso soup where the cook didn’t soak the shellfish long enough and some sand got into the soup. 🙂
After Spring comes the hot Summer and with it a whole new set of flavors the Japanese enjoy.
Next Page: Natsu no aji (夏の味)