The Japanese Cherry Blossom Festival is in full swing, running from March to May and through the length of the country, starting in subtropical Okinawa and finishing in the cool climates of Hokkaido in the north.
And while hanami (flower viewing) is the main reason people gather in parks across the nation, it’s not just the delicate blooms that captivate audiences.
Food plays an important role in Sakura Matsuri (the Cherry Blossom Festival), as friends and families share picnics under the pastel-hued cherry and plum trees.
There is even a saying, ‘hana yori dango’, which translates as ‘dumplings rather than flowers’!
The dumplings in question are hanami dango, sweet rice dumplings, made from mochiko (glutinous rice flour) served as a trio of round dumplings on a skewer. Dango is served year-round, often flavoured with green tea, sesame or chestnut.
During the cherry blossom festival, the hanami dango are presented in three colours that resemble the blooms: pale pink, white, and green. The pink is flavoured with sakura (cherry), the white is vanilla, and the green is matcha (green tea).
Sakura mochi is another signature dish of the season. Similar to dango, these rice flour dumplings are flavoured and coloured with anko (red bean paste), then wrapped in salted and preserved cherry tree leaves.
Hanami-inspired bento boxes are also a popular choice, offering a complete meal in one handy container. In these spring-themed boxes, pink, red, and orange colours take centre stage, with dishes such as prawn and salmon sushi, braised pumpkin and carrot, vibrant green vegetables and sakura mochi.
To drink, enjoy chilled or hot green tea, or a flask of sake. Discover the Japanese Art of Mochi Making, find out how to make a bento box, or learn about the Cultural Significance of Cherry Blossoms in Japan.
Find your nearest Asian Store