As the cooler fall months are right around the corner, now is the perfect time to cozy up to some traditional Japanese autumn dishes. These meals are hearty, delicious, and in many cases, healthy options as we wind down summer and enter the later part of the year.
If you’re entertaining guests, tucking in for a cool fall evening, or in a rush for lunch, these are my favorite autumnal Japanese meals that are sure to be a hit!
Trefoil and Shimeji Mushroom Pasta
If you’ve never had trefoil, it’s very similar to parsley. In fact, it’s often called Japanese parsley, for it’s clean, slightly bitter and refreshing flavor. It pairs well with the rich, umami-packed flavor the parmesan and shimeji mushrooms in this delicious Trefoil and Shimeji Mushroom pasta dish. A little dry white wine also helps cut the richness of the buttery, creamy sauce, creating a meal that’s simple for a quick lunch or a light dinner.
Yuzu-Meyer Lemon Poundcake
If you’ve never seen a yuzu, they’re similar to a lemon, but they’re an entirely different fruit. They’re sour, but bumpy and round like an orange, but with a powerful citrus flavor and aroma that is like a more lemony-lemon. This Yuzu-Meyer Lemon poundcake takes advantage of that intense citrus flavor to make something that is both rich and decadent but also light and refreshing.
If you can’t get yuzus where you are, Meyer lemons are a great substitution, but if you can get yuzus, I highly recommend them. They add such a powerful citrus flavor that it really must be experienced at least once.
Small Potatoes in Sweet Sauce with fresh Ginger Recipe
Immediately following WWII, rice was difficult to find in Tokyo. This made the inhabitants of the city look to any source of healthy starch they could find, which often included pumpkin, sweet potatoes, and tender, young potatoes like in this delicious recipe. Fresh, little potatoes pair wonderfully with the sweet broth made with mirin and dashi, and contrast well with the fresh ginger. It’s immediately refreshing, sweet, and comforting and a great twist on a stick-to-your-ribs vegetable.
Homemade Potato Croquettes (Korokke)
You probably don’t think of potato dishes when you think of Japanese cooking but this one, like the small potatoes previous, are here to show you Japanese cooking loves potatoes. These little fried croquettes – called korokke – are best served hot. The flavor is wonderful, and they’re even great in a bento box the next day as a part of lunch. Just be careful to not overfry them, or you’ll destroy their delicate flavor and texture.
Japanese curry is a significantly different affair from Thai or Indian curries. The flavors are uniform, with spice packets made specifically for Japanese curries based on a British pre packaged spice blend all the way from the 1930s. This is in contrast to Indian curries where the spice melange is made of fresh ingredients and varies from dish to dish. Japanese curry is also not traditionally very spicy, but it does have a wonderful palate of flavors.
This Japanese curry recipe calls for the root veggies of fall – potatoes and carrots – and I’ve even snuck in an apple, adding a sweetness that is truly delicious. This recipe calls for chicken but you can use almost any protein, including tofu or fish, if you’d like. Mix the yummy curry with fresh white rice and you have a quick, healthy, hearty meal that is great for lunch or a comforting dinner.
For many westerners, mochi and other Japanese sweet treats will likely be a large departure from the desserts they’re used to having. These ohagi/botamochi (depending on the season) are made with adzuki beans and glutinous rice flour, and then are topped with a variety of different flavors from sesame seeds to a sugar-and-salt mixture. Their texture is intriguing and pleasant, and their flavor is unique but still satisfies that mid-afternoon craving for a treat. With fall fast approaching, make up a batch of ohagi and see if it doesn’t add some complexity to your sweet tooth.
I find that the rich meat of a duck is a wonderful main dish for fall and winter, when I want something that is more substantial to eat. Flavored with soy, Grand Marinier, orange, and brightened up with shiso leaf, this Duck Delight recipe will impress any guest and perk up your spirits on even the most dreary autumn day.
While the recipe calls for shiitake mushrooms and green beans, any mushroom would probably be fine and you could substitute in any firm green vegetable in place of the beans.
Omuraisu (Rice Omelette)
Omuraisu is both impressive to see and deceptively simple to make. The omelette is creamy, smooth, and delicious and this dish in particular is a great way to use up leftover rice. Since the most exotic flavor here is the ketchup used to garnish, you can likely make this dish right now with whatever you have in your kitchen.
Combining a healthy, protein-packed omelette with rice creates a rich, satisfying meal for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
Rice is a huge part of the Japanese diet, with an incredible amount of variations, cultural uses, and preparations. Two of the most common fall celebratory recipes for rice are kurigohan (chestnut rice) and the other using matsutake mushrooms, which are incredibly expensive and rare outside of Japan.
Luckily for us, chestnuts aren’t rare, particularly in fall and winter, and they impart a wonderful flavor on the rice. You’ll also find that this recipe comes together quickly (assuming you soaked the chestnuts in advance) and it’s relatively simple to make. All told, chestnut rice is a wonderful introduction for the fall months.
What are some of your favorite dishes for fall? Do you prefer to embrace the rich and hearty flavors that fall often brings, or do you like to keep it clean and simple?