Cherry Blossom Tea Menu

"In these spring days,
when tranquil light encompasses
the four directions,
why do the blossoms scatter
with such uneasy hearts?
Ki no Tomonori (c. 850 – c. 904)

The next two weekends are the 45th annual Cherry Blossom Festival in San Francisco.  It is the second-largest cherry blossom festival in America (Washington D.C. is celebrating it's 100th year of celebrations this year, the original trees being a 1912 gift from Viscountess Chinda, wife of the Japanese Ambassador, and later a breathtaking 3000 trees from Mayor Yukio Ozaki of Tokyo), and the only one to take place in one of the three remaining Japantowns in America. 

In Japan, the practice of going out and having picnics to view the blooming cherry trees is called Hanami, based on an older practice from China involving plum, rather then cherry trees. Old in this case, is slightly arbitrary, though, since Hanami has been going on since the Heian period (794-1185)!

There are often many traditional treats involved, using the pale pink of the blossoms, or even the flowers themselves for flavoring;  Sakura No Siozuke (the salted blossoms),

If you don't live in an area with a good Japanese grocery, here's a menu that would be great for a simple picnic in the lovely spring weather. It uses ingredients that should be easy to find, and is a great introduction to Japanese food.

Hanami Dango (a sweet treat made with glutinous rice)

American Hanami Menu:

Sekihan Rice (rice with adzuki beans and black sesame seeds)

Simple Temakizushi(hand-rolled sushi--the way it's usually eaten at home or picnics, rather then when purchased pre-made); take sushi rice, fillings such as fish, avocado, and crab(or even the salted cherry blossoms above), and cut nori seaweed into squares. Each person  makes their own, using the nori as a base, and then wrapping it around the rice and fillings.  For more information and ideas, try here, here and here! As simple or complicated as you want to make it.

Yakitori (Grilled chicken--very good cold!)

This pretty Hanami Salad would be a great addition as well.

Tea Suggestions:

Matcha, good quality whole-leaf green tea, or cherry blossom tea like Sencha Sakura or  Harney & Sons.

Dessert? Great Sakura Mochi recipe here.


Janet Rudolph said...

I didn't realize that the Cherry Blossom Festival was 100 years old this year-here in San Francisco. I'll have to do a chocolate/cherry recipe this week! Thanks for such a wonderful post!

~~louise~~ said...

GREAT post, Jesse. A wonderful menu to celebrate Cherry Blossom season!

Thanks for sharing...

Jesse (Great Grandmother's Kitchen) said...

Janet, it's the D.C. one that's in it's 100th year! 45 years here in S.F., although there were festivals before that, just not held regularly. Making it and other Matsuri a regular event was a response to the effect of WWII and related persecution on Japanese-American culture.

Gloria said...

Look beauty!!

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