Foodbuzz 24,24,24: Japanese Hanami Menu for Cherry Blossom Festivals

Hanami Platter

This weekend marks the beginning of the three-week long cherry blossom festival in Washington, D.C., which is the largest festival in the United States. What some people may not know, however, is that cherry blossom festivals are steeped in Japanese tradition. The traditional Japanese custom of enjoying the beauty of cherry blossoms is known as Hanami. Cherry blossoms bloom all over Japan from mid-January until early May, which is when the Japanese take in their beauty, celebrating the beauty of the trees with friends and family. Hanami mostly consists of having an outdoor party beneath the blooming cherry blossoms during either the daytime or at night. As is the case with most ethnic cultures when large gatherings are involved, food plays a large role in Japanese hanami. Always interested in learning more about regional customs and the food that goes along with them, I thought that putting together a sample hanami menu would be a great way to celebrate this month’s Foodbuzz 24,24,24 event.

The following is the sample hanami menu that I put together; descriptions and photos of each item are included below, as well as links to the recipes:

♦  Kushidango
♦  Shrimp Yakitori
♦  Sushi Rolls
♦  Teppanyaki

Kushidango

Kushidango

Kushidango are dumplings that are made of rice flour and water, steamed and then basted with a sweetened soy sauce and grilled on skewers. Typically 3 to 4 are placed on a skewer and they are traditionally served with green tea. Recipe

Shrimp Yakitori

Shrimp Yakitori

Yakitori can be made with both chicken and shrimp, and I decided to go with the shrimp version for my menu. They are marinated in sesame oil and fresh ginger, and then skewered and grilled. They are sprinkled with a peppered sesame seed mixture. Recipe

Teppanyaki (Grilled Meat & Vegetables with Dipping Sauce)

Teppanyaki is traditionally made using an iron griddle to cook the meal at the table with everyone gathered around, and typically uses either steak or shrimp alongside a variety of vegetables. For my meal, I chose to use steak and since I do not have an iron griddle, I prepared the dish using a stainless steel wok. Recipe

Sushi Rolls

Sushi Rolls

I have yet to tackle making my own sushi, so the sushi rolls that I eat typically come from somewhere local. In this case, it was the local grocery store that has a sushi section, but my favorite is from Yoyogi Sushi in Gaithersburg, MD (their shrimp tempura rolls are awesome!). If you want to give it a go making your own, check out the tutorial on California Rolls by Annie’s Eats.

Now, go make a delicious picnic and sit under a beautiful, flowering tree and enjoy the nature that surrounds us.