My cookbook, KANSHA: Celebrating Japan's Vegan & Vegetarian Traditions (Ten Speed Press, 2010) provides a solid foundation to the principles and practice of kansha in the kitchen and at table. This workshop page enables me to guide you further.  ENJOY! 


Edible Cherry Blossoms

The blossoms and leaves of certain varieties of sakura become edible after being salt-preserved in a pickling process known as shio-zuké. Vividly colored Yaézakura blossoms are especially prized; pale-petaled Somei Yoshinos leaves are preferred for their tenderness deep aroma.

Salt-preserved sakura blossoms and leaves find their way into many culinary preparations. An pan (sweet bean jam filled buns) topped with salty-but-sweetly aromatic cherry flowers were popularized by Emperor Meiji more than one hundred years ago. Classic sakura mochi made from steamed sticky rice and sweet beans are wrapped in the salt-preserved leaves. Sakura yu, a broth-like tea served at many weddings, is made by infusing the preserved blossoms in warm water. Nowadays even bagels (!) are decorated with salted cherry blossoms in the springtime to add a seasonal touch.
Cherry Blossom Rice
sakura gohan

Download a recipe for SAKURA GOHAN.

Cherry leaves, and to a lesser extent the flowers, contain coumarin, a chemical compound that accounts for the distinctive sweet cherry aroma found in many plants, (including cinnamon bark and chamomile tea). Consumed in large quantities coumarin can be mildly toxic to humans, though many practitioners of kampōyaku, Japan’s herbal medicine, make use of coumarin’s anticoagulant properties.

Yaézakura blossoms
Somei Yoshino leaves
Want to try your hand at shaping rice? Download this set of instructions that explains how to use a maku no uchi rice mold.
Obentō boxed meals are an integral part of Japan's food culture. The special boxed lunches that are enjoyed while viewing cherry blossoms are known as hanami bentō.
Rice is often served at room temperature. To make the rice easier to eat, it is often pressed (either by hand or with the help of a mold) to shape it.
At left, the cherry-cooked rice shaped like logs are meant to evoke bundles of freshly harvested rice laying in the field. Those bundles are called tawara.

I welcome your feedback -- especially captioned photos with a brief description of your kitchen sessions when you try making the recipe above. Those interested in offering feedback, please download a set of guidelines for submitting and displaying your work. To further teaching goals, I may post some of the feedback to this site, adding my commentary.