Sunday, January 23, 2011


Minamoto Kitchoan

Persimmon season in Japan is much like zucchini season in parts of the US. In a good year, growers will have such a surplus that it becomes almost a curse, and they resort to ingenious means to deal with it. At one of the schools where I taught in Tokyo, we often found that a silent, anonymous persimmon fairy had left sacks full of ripe fruit in the waiting room while our classroom doors were closed for lessons.

There is a moment during which a fresh persimmon is sweet and juicy; before it they taste like sour dish soap and after, like insipid mush. There is, however, a laborious and specialized process that extends and magnifies that delicious moment, resulting in dried persimmons known as hoshigaki that are so succulently sweet they seem almost to have been glaceed. The ripe but firm fruit is peeled and suspended by its stem from a rack in open air. Over the course of several weeks, the fruit is massaged every few days to tenderize the pulp and prevent it from becoming tough and leathery. As the hoshigaki cures, the fruit's natural sugars migrate to the surface and crystallize, forming a delicate second skin.

Minamoto Kitchoan's Suikashuku is a premium seasonal confection that features a hoshigaki stuffed with white bean paste and coated in red bean paste. The persimmon stem protrudes from the bean paste skin, and the whole thing is dusted with granular starch that evokes the dried fruit's natural bloom. It's a delectable trompe l'oeil--the mellow sweetness of the bean paste tempering the intensity of the fruit and coaxing from it a pleasant tartness.

Slow Food USA has more on hoshigaki, including information on a growing number of US producers.

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