They say everything tastes better deep fried, but who’d have ever guessed that also applies to maple leaves? Well, the dish is real – it’s called Maple Tempura and it’s a fall delicacy in Japan. Surprisingly, it isn’t just made by picking up random fallen leaves and frying them. There’s actually an elaborate process involved in making these sweet, golden snacks.
To prepare Maple Tempura, the leaves are carefully selected and preserved in salt barrels for over a year. Then, they’re removed from the salt and dipped in a batter made from flour, sesame seeds and sugar. These batter-coated leaves are then deep fried for over 20 minutes, until crisp.
Many have compared the taste of Maple Tempura to another traditional Japanese snack food called ‘Karinto’ (deep-fried sweet batter). But some people think Maple Tempura is a lot less sweet and kind of chewy. The leaf apparently has no real taste and only lends its shape to the final product. But it’s precisely this unique star shape that people find most alluring.
The interesting dish is believed to have originated 1,000 years ago, in the Kansai region of south-central Japan. Although the recipe has gone through several changes over the centuries, you can still enjoy a nice plate of Maple Tempura at Kyoto City, Mie Prefecture, or Osaka City. You can also purchase a bag for 500 yen ($5.70) at a small shop called Akataki Chaya located in the picturesque waterfalls of Nabari City.
Maple Tempura can be enjoyed all year round, but they’re best consumed freshly fried in the fall, while admiring the season’s colors.