Autumn is here! Japan has such an affection for seasonal treats, and nothing says autumn quite like chestnuts. Chestnuts, or kuri in Japanese, are enjoyed in the autumn in both sweet and savory dishes. However, when used in desserts, most borrow from the French and call them marron.
Roasted and Savory Chestnuts
Japanese chestnuts have a wonderful aroma, and a slightly sweet taste – the perfect seasonal snack! In my opinion, the best way to enjoy kuri is to enjoy them when they’re piping hot from your local street vendor. This is the simplest way to enjoy chestnuts and by far the most iconic. Nothing beats taking a brisk afternoon autumn walk with a nice warm bag of chestnuts to enjoy along the way.
During this season, check around your local area around train stations, temples, or popular tourist attractions, and you’ll be bound to find someone outside selling toasty, delicious roasted chestnuts. You can also find freshly roasted chestnuts at most grocery stores in the produce section, so make sure to pick some up the next time you’re out shopping!
Another easy way to enjoy kuri on the go is to pick up a pack of pre-peeled roasted chestnuts at any grocery store or convenience store and save yourself time. Same tasty flavor, less work for you!
Another traditional way people enjoy chestnuts in Japan is in kuri-gohan. The chestnuts give a wonderful nutty taste to a simple bowl of rice, adding a lot of warmth and a seasonal touch to the Japanese staple. Enjoy kuri-gohan for dinner with another Japanese autumn delicacy, sanma (saury fish).
Chestnut Sweets and Desserts
But of course you can’t talk about marron without mentioning sweet, delicate, and unbelievably tasty mont blanc. It’s no secret that Japanese people are crazy for French pastries and sweets, so it’s no wonder this popular cake is the staple dessert of autumn in Japan. You’ll be able to find mont blanc everywhere, from the convenience store to the most expensive bakery – there’s something for every price point.
Apart from the classic cake, every sweet imaginable has gotten the marron makeover. Be on the lookout for special seasonal offerings at all of your favorite cafes and bakeries. And at the convenience store, expect to find puddings, chocolates, candy bars, and even lattes and teas flavored with this fall favorite. Chestnut desserts have a delicious light, sweet, and slightly nutty flavor, and it’s easy to see why Japan goes head-over-heels for them this time of year.
Looking for more Japanese-style sweets? Try kuri-manju! This wonderful sweet is a family favorite. It’s a soft bun stuffed with red bean paste and either a whole or chopped chestnut inside. Manju is a favorite all year in many different varieties, but kuri-manju is by far one of the most delicious. Many popular Japanese sweets get an autumn addition with chestnuts. Take kuri-dorayaki for example, which is like it sounds, your classic dorayaki stuffed with red bean paste and chopped chestnuts – delicious!
What is your favorite way to enjoy chestnuts?