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[Video] Japan's Maple Leaf Tempura Tastes as Beautiful as It Looks

Saigon officially has another reason to be jealous of regions that experience autumn: these dazzlingly colorful leaf tempuras that make for delicious snacks!

Momiji, as featured in a recent Great Big Story video, is a tasty delicacy from the Japanese city of Minoo made by battering and deep-frying fall maple leaves. They are best enjoyed after being hand-harvested and packed in salt for a year. They are then coated in a sweetened batter, seasoned with sesame, and individually fried for 20 minutes until golden and crispy. 

The name momiji refers to the maple trees from which the leaves are harvested. It can be translated to both "baby's hands" and "becomes crimson leaves”. Not just any leaf can be made into delicious momiji tempura, however: only yellow ones, called ichigyouji, which have supple veins are chosen.

Some claim that the delicacy has been around for 1,300 years, originating from a pilgrim who was so taken with the beauty of leaves surrounding Osaka’s famous Minootaki Waterfall that he cooked some with rapeseed oil. Others contend that the dish cannot be that old since tempura was only introduced by Spanish and Portuguese missionaries in the 16th century. 

Either way, momiji wasn’t commercialized until a train station opened near the waterfall in 1910 and tourists arrived in the area, eager for a unique souvenir. It is now available in Kyoto and Osaka for JPY500 (US$5.70) a bag.

So how do they taste? Apparently the leaves themselves have no actual taste, and are only valued for their shape. Instead it is the sweet batter that imparts the rich flavors. Compared to tempura vegetables or shrimp, the breading is a bit dry and thus offers a mild sweetness similar to Japanese karinto (deep-fried sweet batter) crackers.

If you can get your hands on some aesthetically pleasing fall maple leaves, you can try a traditional recipe from the Daily Mail or a hipster take with pumpkin and fig.

In the meantime, feast your eyes on the poetic beauty of autumn in Japan through Great Big Story's video feature below:

Video via YouTube channel Great Big Story.

[Top photo via Kotaku]

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