Noshing on pumpkin-flavored everything for fall is for newbies. In Japan, people eat autumn leaves straight off the tree. Well, first they’re deep-fried in tempura. Tempura-fried maple leaves are an extremely popular autumnal-themed snack in certain regions of Japan. They’re called “Momiji,” and can actually be prepared and eaten all year round.
Tempura-battered momiji have been around for more than a millennium, and so the story goes, that when one tourist traveled to Osaka’s Minootaki waterfall in the fall 1,300 years ago, he was so taken by the beauty of the surrounding maple trees, that he decided to fry some leaves in rapeseed oil and consume them. In the 19th century, the tempura-fried leaves were commercialized.
You can get them in many regions of Japan, order them online, or even pick some leaves off your neighbor’s maple tree and make a batch yourself. One recipe encourages brushing the leaves with maple syrup, dipping the leaves into a basic tempura batter, and then frying the creations in a vat of sunflower oil.
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Joanna Fantozzi is an Associate Editor with The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter@JoannaFantozzi