Spring in Japan means it’s cherry blossom season. In Japan, not only do people enjoy the visual beauty of cherry blossoms, but they also incorporate them into their food. In this traditional recipe for sakura kanten jelly, we will show you one of the simplest and tastiest ways to do this. Using kanten, a vegetarian gelatin, jellied dishes like this sakura kanten are extremely popular in Japanese food culture. While usually a fruit is a main ingredient for flavoring and coloring, this time we are going to use sakura (cherry blossoms) for an aromatic flavor and a look that celebrates spring!
Japan and Sakura
Hanami is an annual celebration of spring in Japan that revolves around cherry blossoms. Beginning around the first of April, when the trees start flowering, people from all walks of life spend time “viewing” them. This often means having a picnic party under the cherry trees by spreading out a leisure sheet on the ground. Because of this, certain foods are associated with Hanami and sakura, like karaage, tamagoyaki (Japanese omelet) and sake. Sweets are also very common, including mochi balls and this kanten sakura jelly!
Cherry blossoms are so iconic to Japanese culture that some major beer manufacturers even put them on their cans so that everyone can celebrate. The history of Hanami goes back to the Nara period (710-794). People believed that the blossoming of flowers was a divine sign that signaled the beginning of the rice planting season. Because of this, they brought offerings like sake and food to the trees. This is what evolved to the “viewing” picnics in modern Japan, where these cherry blossom trees are still revered.
How to Cook with Sakura Cherry Blossoms
Cherry blossoms are used profusely in many authentic Japanese food recipes, especially during the Hanami season. Some of the most common dishes include sakura green tea (delicious!), sakura rice, and sakura mochi. When there are no cherry blossoms available to use, use cherry liquor or food coloring instead.
All About Kanten
Kanten is a semi-translucent substance made from sea algae. It is becoming more popular in the West as a substitute for gelatin which is an animal product. It’s also easy to make and tastes great! We have several other kanten recipes here for you to experiment with as well, including rich and yummy strawberry milk kanten and orange kanten, which uses orange peel elegantly.
- Make sure to wash the salted cherry blossoms well in cold water. Otherwise, the jelly will have an unwanted salty taste.
- Although it’s an extra step, freezing jelly in two steps ensures cherry blossoms will stay in the middle instead of dropping all the way to the bottom.
Sakura Kanten Jelly
- 2 cup Water
- ½ cup Sugar
- 1 bag (4g) Kanten Powder
- 8 Salted Cherry Blossoms
- Wash salted cherry blossoms with plenty of water to remove salt. Dry and set them aside.
- In a pot, combine water, sugar and kanten powder and bring to boil over high heat. Boil for 1 minute and stop the heat. Mix and let it sit to cool down.
- Pour half of the liquid into a square container and cool it in the refrigerator until it hardens.
- Take the container out and place cherry blossoms on top of the jelly. Make sure to place them evenly throughout the container. Slowly pour in the rest of the liquid and place it back to the refrigerator.
- Once hardened, remove the jelly from the container and cut to serve.