Autumn Tastes of Japanese Foods in USA

Shoichiro Nakamura



Minced Yamaimo


Autumn is the time we dig out Yamaimo (Dioscorea Japonica) from our backyard vegetable garden.  Ours are not as soft as Nagaimo sold in Japanese grocery but taste more like Teimo in Japan.  The most popular way of cooking Yamaimo is to grate making a cold soup called Tororoimo. However, we like better to mince it to thin rods, and flavor with Wasabi and cold dipping sauce for Soba noodle.


White Rice Cooked with Yamlets (Mukago Meshi)


Yamaimo does not produce any seeds although they produce tiny white flowers.  Instead, tiny yamlets called Mukago are grown in the vine.  In the autumn they drop to the ground, and germinate in the next spring.  It takes about two to three years until Mukago becomes a normal size.


We cook Mukago in white rice with a small amount of salt, which is called Mukago Meshi.  We cook it several times in the fall. We sometimes add Gingko nuts in late autumn. 


Ankou Nabe


Ankou Nabe is a fish soup of monkfish cooked in an electric pot on the dining table, and served with a dipping sauce prepared with grated radish, carrot, lime juice, and soysauce. Monkfish is popular in US and available in regular grocery but a problem is all skins are removed before they are delivered to fish stores.  The Ankou Nabe needs the skin. Fortunately, the Monkfish available in Japanese grocery in late autumn comes with skin. 


Astringent Persimmon


In the autumn two kinds persimmons appear in the market. One is called Fuyugaki, which is mildly sweet, and another is Shibugaki (known as Hachiya persimmon) which is much sweeter but has an astringent taste.


My way of removing the astringent taste is to use a few drops of liquor like Shochu (or Rum, Whiskey, Brandy).  Put the persimmons in a ziploc with a few drops of a liquor and seal it for few days.




Burdock is a weed seen almost anywhere in the world.  However, cultivated burdock is a popular food in Japan.  We grow them in the backyard. Because of clay soil here our burdocks are not as long as those sold in grocery, but taste is so much better with a good flavor and tenderness.


Tokyo Green Onion


It takes two years to make good Tokyo Green Onion. The first year is to germinate seeds, which makes bunching green onions. In the second year, they bloom flowers, and after that a few new shoots grow from each plant.  In late summer we pull them out and divide into each plant, and then replant deeply in the soil. By late fall, very soft, thick green onion with long white part under the green leaves are produced.  So autumn is a good time to eat Sukiyaki with Tokyo Green (oops white?) Onion.


Pomegranate Juice


In late October pomegranates start appearing in the market.  We make juice of it for Thanksgivings dinner, which is flavorful and sweet.


Creole Whiskey Fruit Cake


Winter is the time to enjoy good cakes. One of our favorite cakes is the Creole whiskey Fruit cake by Emeril Lagasse, which uses lots of dried fruits, nuts, whiskey and Grand Marnier.  It is rather expensive, but outstanding.   


Brewing Home-made Sake


In late fall to winter, we often brew sake, not for drinking sake, but for the purpose making Sakekasu.  Sake produced in home does not taste as good but if distilled it makes excellent but unique Shochu although there is a risk of being jailed and a hefty fine of $100,000.   Of course we do not distil.


Sakekasu is rich in protein and excellent material to make certain pickles and Sakekasu-flavored beef and chicken and salmon.




Paella is a Spanish dish, yet it is so natural to us Japanese because it is white rice cooked with sea foods.  However, we make a slight difference in cooking, that is, while the rice grains in original Spanish paella are supposed not to be soft at the core when served, we cook them until the center of rice grains becomes soft like the rice in sushi. Our paella includes roasted chicken wings, clams, and chopped fresh lobsters with a bit of saffron.