It may come as a surprise that chestnuts have been a staple of Japanese cuisine for centuries. Whilst no longer as commonplace in the Japanese diet, they are still a popular autumn food, enjoyed in both sweet and savory form.
They are referred to as kuri in savory dishes, but also go by the French name of marron when used in desserts.
Savory Chestnuts: Kuri (栗)
One of the most popular ways of consuming chestnuts in Japan is yakiguri. This style of cooking originated in China and involves adding chestnuts to a large pot filled with tiny pebbles. The pot is then heated and the pebbles slowly and evenly cook the chestnuts.You can often find yakiguri vendors at markets, festivals, or even at booths in train stations.
Another classic savory chestnut dish is kuri-gohan. This dish combines the delicious nutty elements of chestnuts with the subtle tones of freshly cooked Japanese rice. This dish is the perfect comfort food for cool, autumn evenings.
Sweet Chestnuts: Maron (マロン)
There is no doubt that the Japanese love pastries, especially French pastries. One of the most ubiquitous pastries is monburan or Mont Blanc. If you’ve ever been to Japan, chances are you’ve come across this dessert. It is easily recognized by the swirl of chestnut puree piped in a cone-like shape topped with a glossy, glazed chestnut.
There are a number of other popular chestnut-inspired desserts as well. Kuri yokan is a type of jelly-like cake with candied chestnuts encased in a sweet paste of anko (red bean). Kuri mushipan a subtly sweet steamed bun with sweetened chestnut pieces inside. Lastly, kuri manju is a traditional Japanese cake made with pastry and sweetened bean paste with a whole candied chestnut inside.
With such a variety of dishes available, I’m sure you’ll find a chestnut-themed dish to suit your palette!
About the author:
Ailsa van Eeghen
Ailsa has been living in Japan since 2015 all the while enjoying the rich beauty of Kagoshima prefecture. She finds the most joy in exploring little villages, driving around the countryside and exploring the lesser known parts of Japan. Keenly interested in Japan’s regional diversity, you can often find her at michi-no-eki admiring all the local produce. You can find more of her travels and deep dives into Japanese culture on her Instagram @daysofailsa where she writes about her life in Japan.
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