Dishes using wild mountain vegetables

In December 2013, "washoku" (which means Japanese cuisine) was registered in UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage. In Japan where distinct seasonal changes exist, the food tradition was cultivated alongside the rich nature. Our traditional food culture based on spirit and worshiping nature became world-renowned.

Washoku is gathering attention globally as being simple and nutritious cuisine and Japanese restaurants have spread all over the world.

Among many types of Japanese dishes, dishes using wild mountain vegetables are recognized as seasonal and health-oriented food. New sprouts of mountain vegetables appear in spring after the snow starts to melt, and are harvested until the end of summer.

Mountain vegetables can be harvested in the mountains. They are washed and prepared, which takes time after they have been harvested. Then they are cooked with simple seasonings such as miso, salt and soy sauce.

There are many types of cuisine using mountain vegetables which have been inherited over generations. Boiled and uncooked ones are popular, but methods of eating them with dressing and mayonnaise have also appeared, being influenced by the western food culture.

Mountain vegetables which are indispensable for local people in Akita, because it enables them to enjoy the taste of nature and to feel the change of the seasons.

Matsubashi Ryokan (Ryokan is a local hotel) in Kitaakita offers cuisine with mountain vegetables from the local mountains. You can enjoy them in the traditional building which has old-style tatami, shoji (Japanese paper screen walls), and irori (Japanese sunken hearth).

Also, the owners of the Ryokan are the members of a hunting group in northern Japan called "matagi", and lots of old documents about matagi are displayed in the Ryokan to share the Matagi culture. Fresh mountain vegetables provided in the Ryokan are actually harvested in the mountain by Matagi. Since they harvest multiple vegetables in different seasons, you can have the best cuisine of mountain vegetables depending on the season.

When I stayed at a hot-spring hotel in Akita, I ate lots of cuisine made with mountain vegetables. That was good for me to learn how to make dishes using mountain vegetables. I was just surprised that there were so many types of dishes made with mountain vegetables. I liked shrimp tempura, but tempura of mountain vegetables became my favorite. I liked shrimp tempura, but tempura of mountain vegetables became my favorite.