Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Momiji: Tempura Maple Leaves (wild love)

Mmm, fall. How lovely it is to stare up through canopies of red and yellow and orange, study the intricacies in the shifting colors and patterns of leaves. In Japan, they call this time of year "Momiji Gari," or "Autumn Leaf Viewing." I love the thought of making the beauty of this transitional time a celebration.  If only there were a way to capture that leaves-crunching-underfoot, warm-happiness-in-your-belly-feeling.

Actually...there is! I read the other day about the Japanese treat momiji, which are tempura maple leaves. I immediately thought how perfect they would be for the season, and became absolutely determined to try them.

If you are concerned about the edibility of maple leaves, this article may ease your mind.
Pick leaves from a source with no pesticides or herbicides. Wash them well, and pat to dry. Heat up a couple of inches of oil in a deep pot or pan until it reaches about 350F. Meanwhile, mix your batter:

Beat 1 egg, add a pinch of salt and 1 cup of ginger beer and then add 1 1/2 cups rice flour and mix gently (don't overmix!) Then dip the leaves in and shake of the excess batter. Fry them in the oil until brown and crispy, then serve with maple syrup, golden syrup, or powdered sugar. Easy peasey!

The traditional recipes are hard to find, but it looks like they're more of a traditional savory tempura, often made with sesame seeds. I wanted to try a sweeter "Americanized" version, but I can see these being very tasty made with sesame seeds and served with a soy or chili sauce. I was pleasantly surprised by these; I thought the fibrous leaves would be too tough to eat but after they were fried they were crisp and crunchy, like kale chips. (Only with a lot more fat and sugar, so way tastier.) You could get a faint hint of tannic maple flavor but it was subtle. Nicely balanced by the crunchy-sweet of the batter. 

These were a beautiful shape and texture, though honestly if you fry anything in oil and cover it in sugar it is bound to taste pretty good. ;) All in all, I thought this was a successful experiment! The minions and I talked tonight about how lovely these would look topping a pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving, or that they'd be a fun appetizer for the evening. Let me know if you try them yourself!

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