Sanma (Pacific saury), a silver-skinned fish with a rich flavor, is a favorite among the many Japanese fall dishes. In Japanese, its name literally means “autumn knifefish,” a reference to its knife-like shape and the season when sanma is most delicious. A meal of grilled salted sanma, garnished with grated daikon radish and accompanied by a bowl of white rice and miso soup, is the quintessential autumn repast.
Matsutake mushroom is called the “King of autumn food” because of its fragrant smell and rich taste, and because of its price (Matsutake mushroom can cost around $100). Since this mushroom cannot be cultivated artificially and cannot be harvested on a regular schedule, it is one of the most luxurious foods in Japan. Many Japanese people like to cook it in flavored rice or soup to enjoy its delicious aroma.
Kuri is a nut that has been cultivated in the country since ancient times and is now a favorite Japanese autumn food. It can be roasted as a snack (yaki-guri), with street vendors appearing from autumn and hawking their roasted chestnuts through the winter, or cooked together with rice (kurigohan). Chestnuts are also used in a number of traditional Japanese sweets (wagashi) as well as Western sweets like mont blanc cake.
Kabocha is often referred to as a Japanese pumpkin and is a type of winter squash. It has tough green skin and orange flesh. The skin softens when boiled and is edible. Cooked kabocha has a fluffy texture and a sweet and nutty flavor. Although available year-round, kabocha tastes best in autumn. It can be prepared in a number of ways, from deep-fried tempura over braised in soy sauce and dashi broth or simply boiled in water.
Oden is a Japanese autumn favorite as lunch or a quick dinner. The base is a mild, soy-flavored dashi soup. One can choose their favorite ingredients from options such as boiled eggs, daikon (Japanese radish), fish cakes, cabbage rolls or meat-and-mochi-stuffed tofu skin. There are also plenty of healthier additions such as seaweed or konnyaku (a low-calorie firm jelly made from the konnyaku potato).
Kaki (persimmons) is a luscious sight in the fall, hanging from tree boughs against the gray autumn sky. Persimmons come in sweet and bitter varieties and can be eaten raw or dried (hoshigaki). The astringent variety of persimmon actually becomes much sweeter after being dried and stores well over winter.
Yakiimo (Sweet Potato)
Yakiimo are simply roasted sweet potatoes, and they are quite possibly the most popular autumn snack in Japan. The sweet potatoes are roasted and sold in a variety of places from conveniences stores over sweet potato specialty shops to food stalls at festivals.
You can find many different variations and flavors all over Japan. The mainland serves sweet potatoes with red skin and yellow flesh while the murasaki imo, or purple sweet potato, is especially famous in Okinawa.
Nashi, or Asian pear, is another popular Japanese fruit during autumn. "Kosui" is a type of nashi which is found in most places in Japan. It has low acidity and a high sugar content making it very sweet.
The other major type of Japanese nashi is the "hosui". It is similar to the kosui in taste and texture but it is slightly bigger and it can be stored for a longer time.