Published on Monday, 13 October 2014 00:00
Can you think of anything that doesn't taste good when it's deep-fried? Of course you can't, because everything tastes better when it has been soaking in a bath of scalding oil and beautifully crisping up. This apparently, also applies to maple leaves. When Autumn arrives and the trees turn into gorgeous shades of yellow, orange and red, you can find Maple Tempura being sold as a fall delicacy in Japanese stores.
It takes more than just picking up random maple leaves scattered over the ground and frying them up. These sweet, golden-red snacks can't be made as and when you would like it to be, it requires quite an elaborate process. To prepare Maple Tempura, the maple leaves are carefully selected and preserved in salt barrels for over a year, after which, they are taken out and dipped in a batter made from flour, sesame seeds and sugar. The batter-coated leaves are then deep-fried for over 20 minutes until crisp. The result is a lovely, crunchy snack in the most alluring shape of a puffed-up maple leaf.
Many who have tasted the Maple Tempura likens it to another traditional Japanese snack called Karinto, which is basically just sweet batter that has been deep-fried without being coated over anything. But others beg to differ, and think that Maple Tempura is a lot less sweet and kind of chewy. The maple leaf itself has no real taste, it is only used for the shape of the final product. It is due to its pretty star shape that people find most enticing.
You might assume that the unique snack is a modern-day invention, but it actually originated about 1,000 years ago in Osaka. However, the recipe has gone through a couple of changes since it was first introduced. You can enjoy a nice, hot, piping plate of Maple Tempura at Kyoto City, Mie Prefecture of Osaka City fresh out from the deep-fryer. Or you can also purchase a bag of precooked ones for around 500 yen (S$5.90) from shops all around.
Maple tempura can be enjoyed in all four seasons, but the best time to consume them is during fall, underneath the colorful trees while sipping on a beer or two. The Japanese has long believed in being close with nature, whether through seasonal art, poetry or food. If you are traveling, or have a friend who is, over to Japan this Autumn, keep a look out for these lovely snack!