Want To Eat Some Maple Leaves This Autumn?

In the U.S. the main flavor of autumn seems to be something like a pumpkin spiced coffee or ice cream. As Thanksgiving approaches we are into pumpkin everything. In Japan this time of year brings a snack so common that it grows on trees -- literally. It is momiji tempura. It is a deep fried snack made of batter-dipped maple leaves and is more popular than our ubiquitous pumpkins. Perhaps we need to expand our autumn diet.

Momiji Tempura (Image via The Daily Eats)Momiji Tempura (Image via The Daily Eats)

When the leaves turn in Osaka it makes for some gorgeous color and tasty snacks.  There maple is called momiji. Minoo City is well-known for its maple trees and famous for its momiji tempura. Fried leaves. It is not exactly the sort of thing we think of as edible, let alone delicious. 

These leaves are not exactly just raked up off the ground. They are preserved in barrels of salt for over a year before they are taken out to be dipped in a slightly sweet tempura batter and fried for about 20 minutes until they are crisp. I am guessing that they are something like peanuts and you can never eat just one. They are sold in cellophane packages and by street vendors packed the way we often buy French fries.

Momiji Tempura (Image via The Daily Eats)Momiji Tempura (Image via The Daily Eats)

You also can't eat momiji tempura at just any time of year. It is only available in the autumn when the maple leaf is so evocative of the cooling weather and the approach of winter. I suppose the closest thing we have is when Count Chocula cereal is only around in October for Halloween. If this was a competition they'd win.

Preparing and eating momiji tempura dates back at least a thousand years. In a way it is kind of strange that this isn't the national snack of Canada. Canadians are so crazy about maple leaves that they put one on their nation's flag. 

Momiji Tempura Being Sold by a Street Vendor (Image via The Daily Eats)Momiji Tempura Being Sold by a Street Vendor (Image via The Daily Eats)

It may be time for the American public to give this one a try.  I tried to find a recipe for this online (in English), but came up empty. We are going to need a little help from our Japanese friends on this. I tend to be squeamish about trying strange new foods, but I love tempura and am intrigued. Bring on the fried leaves!

Source: Kotaku

Photos via: The Daily Eats