Translated by Jasmine Nishino
Sushi Wrapped in a Leaf? Try the Persimmon Leaf Sushi in Nara
Written by Eri Takizawa
A popular Japanese dish many people enjoy is sushi. In this article we will introduce you to the "persimmon leaf sushi", a regional dish from Nara.
Nara is located in Western Japan, neighboring Kyoto and Osaka. It is a popular tourist spot with many famous shrines and temples, such as Tōdai-ji Temple, Hōryū-ji Temple and the Kasuga Taisha Shrine.
Have you ever heard of the rare type of sushi made in Nara, the "persimmon leaf sushi"?
What is a Persimmon Leaf Sushi?
Persimmon leaf sushi is one of Nara's local dishes.
Bite size rice balls are topped with salted mackerel and wrapped in a persimmon leaf. Each piece is then put into a wooden box and pressed with a heavy stone to ferment for a few days.
When refrigerators were not around, this was a special dish the people in the mountains enjoyed during summer festivals.
Currently, persimmon leaf sushi uses rice with vinegar to simplify the fermentation process. The classic fish was the mackerel, but lately salmon, red snapper, shrimp, eel and other types of toppings are used.
Savor the Persimmon Sushi in Nara Park
This time, we purchased the persimmon leaf sushi from a shop called "Tanaka", located right by the Kintetsu Nara Station. There were a total of seven pieces, in which three were mackerel, two salmon and two red snapper sushi. (1,145 yen tax included.)
Unlike the standard sushi many non-Japanese are familiar to, each piece is carefully wrapped in a persimmon leaf.
By having each piece wrapped in a leaf, carrying it around becomes easier and you won't make a mess when eating. It also prevents the sushi from drying out and the tannin in the persimmon leaf helps work as an anti-bacterial, preventing degradation.
In addition to that, the persimmon leaf adds a distinctive flavor to the sushi, so you can eat it as it is without any soy sauce. Persimmon leaf sushi is actually a perfect dish to casually eat outdoors.
On a nice autumn day, it would be nice to enjoy tasting some persimmon leaf sushi while watching the red leaves of Nara park. The park is located right by the popular Tōdaiji Temple and Kasuga Taisha Shrine, an area that is less crowded and a great place to relax.
How Does it Taste? Thoughts After Tasting the Persimmon Leaf Sushi
Mackerel Persimmon Leaf Sushi
Let's begin with the classic.
The mackerel is flavored with salt and vinegar, which pairs up well with the sushi rice. The gentle aroma of the persimmon leaf adds a nice accent that is different from standard sushi.
Even from a single bite, you can taste the wonderful flavor of the mackerel.
Salmon Persimmon Leaf Sushi
The vivid color of the salmon makes this piece very appealing. The persimmon leaf also keeps the rice from drying, which makes it look glossy when you unwrap it. One bite of this piece, and you will be able to taste the sweetness of the salmon that has a different quality from the mackerel.
Red Snapper Persimmon Leaf Sushi
Unlike the mackerel or salmon, the red snapper is firmer.
To keep the simple, yet flavorful taste of the snapper, this piece is lightly finished with a touch of sweetened vinegar.
Perhaps many people imagine eating sushi with soy sauce in a restaurant. However, unlike standard sushi, persimmon leaf sushi is meant to be eaten outdoors. It is sold in various locations throughout Nara, and even in department stores in Tokyo and Osaka.
Feeling bored of the same common sushi? Want to try something different?
At times like this, why not try some persimmon leaf sushi while relaxing outdoors? A new discovery inside the sweet persimmon scent will sure to be wonderful surprise.
Persimmon Leaf Sushi Main Store Tanaka Nara Shop
Address: Nara, Nara city, Higashimuki Nakamachi 5-2 (near Kintetsu Nara Station, in front of the statue of Gyōki)
Hours: 09:30 - 19:30
Closed: Open all year
Credit cards: VISA, JCB, Master Card, AMEX
Other Languages: Japanese
Menus in Other Languages: English menu available
Nearest Station: Nara Station (奈良駅) on the Kintetsu Line
Access: 3 minute walk from the east exit of the Kintetsu Nara Station.
Price Range: Varies on number (7 pieces for around 1,000 yen.)
Religious Considerations: -
Phone Number: 0742-81-3651
Homepage: Persimmon Leaf Sushi Main Store Tanaka (Japanese)