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Japan’s Autumn Food

Date Published: Last Update:2015/05/11 Food , , , , ,

The temperature is getting cold and it’s finally autumn. Talking about autumn, there is a common term in Japanese, “aki no mikaku.” “Aki” stands for autumn and “mikaku” is taste, which actually refers to “autumn food.” When you say autumn food, first thing that comes up to my mind is “sanma”, a Pacific saury fish.

Autumn Food - grilled sanma (Pacific saury)Sanma (Pacific saury) sprinkled with salt and grilled, with grated daikon (radish) on the side – simply delicious! (Photo courtesy of ayustety)

The company DO HOUSE, Inc. just recently released a result of their web survey about autumn in relation to food. The survey is participated by 1,000 people, covering both men and women between 20-60 years old.

“Speaking of autumn, what food comes up to your mind first?”

This is one of the questions asked in the survey form and more than half of the participants, 53.2%, answered sanma. Kuri (chestnut) and Matsutake (an expensive kind of mushroom) are next on the list, with 43.25% and 30.9% respectively.

Below is the complete list of the top 10 autumn food.

Rank Food Percentage
1 Sanma (Pacific saury) 53.2%
2 Kuri (chestnut) 43.2%
3 Matsutake (one kind of mushroom) 30.9%
4 Kaki (Japanese persimmon) 26.6%
5 Nashi (pear) 16.6%
6 Shin-mai* (new rice) 16.6%
7 Satsuma-imo (sweet potato) 14.4%
8 Kinoko (mushrooms excluding Matsutake) 11.3%
9 Sake** or Aki-sake (Salmon or Autumn salmon) 7.8%
10 Ginnan (Ginkgo or gingko biloba) 7.2%
Based on DO HOUSE Inc. survey.

* The term “shin-mai” also refers to a beginner or a novice.
** Different in kanji character, sake also refers to a Japanese rice wine.

Matsutake

Matsutake – a luxury mushroom (Photo courtesy of the.Firebottle)

You can find ginnan as a topping on chawan mushi, a Japanese steamed egg custard containing shrimp, mushrooms, etc.

Autumn Recipes

As for what autumn food do they eat at home or outside, sanma recipes also ranked up to the top.

At Home

Rank Food Percentage
1 Sanma (Pacific saury) 65.0%
2 Shin-mai (new rice) 27.2%
3 Mushroom (except Matsutake) 26.0%
Based on DO HOUSE Inc. survey. Click here to view the full list.

Eat out

Rank Food Percentage
1 Sanma (Pacific saury) 21.0%
2 Matsutake 13.4%
3 Mushroom (except Matsutake) 12.6%
Based on DO HOUSE Inc. survey. Click here to view the full list.

Almost half (49.3 %) of the participants answered they don’t eat autumn food outside home.

Autumn Sweets

What about sweets? When asked what sweets do they crave in autumn, sweet potato made it to the top. For men, roasted (baked) sweet potato, “sweet potato” confectionery, and roasted chestnuts are the top 3. While women chose “sweet potato” confectionery, roasted (baked) sweet potato, and chestnut pie (cake or tart).

Autumn Food - yaki-imo (roasted sweet potato)Yaki-imo (roasted sweet potato) (Photo courtesy of Kanko*)

In Japan, the term “sweet potato” (スイートポテト) refers to a confectionery made of sweet potatoes as main ingredient. On the other hand, “satsuma-imo” is used to refer to sweet potatoes. “Sweet potato” confectionary is made by steaming or boiling sweet potatoes, skin peeled, crushed and strained. Then, it’s mixed with sugar, butter, milk and egg yolk. You can find it in elliptical shape just like in the picture below. It’s coated with egg yolk to give its golden brown color after baking.

Autumn Food - "sweet potato" confectionery“Sweet potato” confectionery (Photo courtesy of dreamcat115)

More about Sanma (Pacific Saury)

Why autumn is the season for sanma?

Sanma is composed of three kanji characters – 秋刀魚. The first character (秋) means autumn, 刀 for sword, and 魚 for fish. Sanma migrates seasonally in schools from north to south. Autumn is the best time because it is when sanma has more fat content around 20% compared to around 10% during summer. After laying eggs, its fat is said to decrease rapidly.

How to tell which one is a fresh and delicious  sanma by just looking?

Here are some of the points to consider:
– stomach looks firm
– white part of the eye is clear
– has glossy color
– the tail joint and jaw part have a hint of yellow color
– large body size

Have you had any autumn food already? Do you have any food in particular you can’t miss having during autumn? Share it with us by leaving us a comment below.

For places to visit to enjoy autumn leaves, check our post here.

 

Resources:
Autumn Food Survey by DO House, Inc.
Sanma in Autumn – Yomeishu
Talking about Sanma – http://www.jf-net.ne.jp/
Sanma – Foodslink.jp

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ren

A gaijin in Okayama who enjoys viewing cherry blossom in spring, fireworks in summer, eating grilled sanma (Pacific saury fish) in autumn and oden in winter.

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