Pampered Japanese Dried Persimmons
The Japanese sure give their food a lot of TLC.
Cows get massaged so their flesh transforms into buttery, extraordinarily rich Kobe beef. And even persimmons get the shiatsu treatment.
Maybe I should have been born a Japanese food product because I’d be one happy camper if I got back-rubs on a regular basis. But forgive me, I digress…
I’d never tried the famous hoshigaki before. So when I spied these dried persimmons at Nijiya Market in San Jose last week, I had to buy a package to try.
The traditional method, brought here by Japanese immigrant farmers who settled in Placer County, require that firm persimmons be peeled by hand, and hung by string for several weeks. During that interval — yes indeedie– the persimmons get regular massages.
The rub-downs apparently help break up the flesh and give the dried persimmons a more uniform shape. They also help smooth the exterior to retard mold. After three to six weeks of this, a white powdery bloom appears naturally on the fruit, and they’re ready to be enjoyed.
Hoshigaki (also spelled hoshi gaki) are not easy to find. Because they are so labor intensive to make, there’s little commercial production. In fact, Slow Food has added hoshigaki to its Ark of Taste, a classification given to artisan foods in danger of disappearing. The global food organization is working to revive this fruit tradition.
Even dried, hoshigaki remain quite moist and retain a pleasant chew. They are sweet, but not nearly as much as other dried fruit, such as papaya. They taste of sweet potato and perhaps gingerbread with a slight floral quality.
They also don’t come cheap, either. A package of six was about $6.
But when you consider all the work that went into each one, it’s really a small price to pay for a taste of meticulous craftsmanship by both man and Mother Nature.
The Japanese and the French. There’s a reason that they’re in love with each other on the culinary circuits: because they’re both the world’s top food fetishists. And that’s precisely why I have this eternal in-love-agawk relationship with both food scenes. I’ve never tried these persimmons–never even heard of them despite repeated trips to Japan to, well, eat–and to eat well. I’ll have to check them out. My partner is absolutely addicted to Japanese candies, from the very esoteric to the low-end landfill fodder. I’m sure he’d go nuts over these.
I’ve never seen that speciality here! I bet it taste great in granola or sweet bread…
My Dad used to peel and dry persimmons. I don’t think he massaged them though!
Oh, I love those Japanese candies, too, Mark. I’m not always sure what I’m buying in the package, but they never cease to tantalize my palate.
And Rosa, that’s a great idea to try baking with them. I, of course, just scarfed them down straight out of hand. Must buy another package now to bake with.
Yummmm….these look amazing!! I think you’re right. The Japanese have it right. I’ve got to add these to my list of foods to try! 🙂
I wonder how they’d taste sprinkled with a little li hing powder.
I am on the hunt for these! I know you said they are hard to find, but I will see if I can find them in the East Bay. The picture of them is wonderful! And I am willing to try almost anything once, so……
Oh, how I love these! They are the best candy in the world.
We had a neighbor when I was growing up that had a shibugaki (it’s the long ones that are astringent as opposed to fuyugaki) and every year we’d just watch as all that beautiful fruit fell to the ground and rotted. One year we knocked on the lady’s door and asked if we could take some and she looked at us like we were crazy telling us they weren’t edible, but said we could take as many as we wanted since it would save her from cleaning up the mess they made. We had a lot of hoshigaki that year.
Even rarer than the ones that are dried all the way (with the white bloom) are half way dried ones that are more tender and taste incredible.
Wow, half-way dried ones that are even more tender? I wish I could find those here to try.
Truly delicious looking!
I love fresh sweet persimmons. I get pretty bummed out when they’re out of season. It’s nice to know that I can try to have dried persimmons to hold off my cravings. Plus, I get to explore other dried fruits besides dried mangos.
I’ve had my share of them, they are just ok. Sound better then they taste.
I think I read that Monterey Market in Berkeley has them in the Winter.
Those look SO neat! Persimmons are one of my all time favorite fruits. I get very excited when I’m at Stanford Shopping Center because I can stop in at Sigona’s and buy their amazing dried persimmons. Mmmmm.
I showed my father in law how to dry them in his dehydrator machine. They are delicious dehydradted but they stick something awful. I guess a little spritz of neutral oil ..? I’m sure these must be the upscale version of the simple dehydrated ones. If only the Japanese treated their children with such care – I’d have saved a lot of money on those 50 minute hours! Just kidding Mom! Sorta…
Jacqueline: Oooh, I wonder if that’s why the traditional method involves hanging them with string? That way they have no sticking problems. Interesting.
And Marni: Thanks for the tip about Sigona’s. I love that place, but didn’t realize they had dried persimmons there, too.
I’ve never had persimmon but those look delicious! I’ll have to keep my eye out for them.
you can find these in Korean and Chinese groceries as well when they are in season. As a matter of fact, I just ate two—they are called “ggott-gam” in Korean, and I have no idea what the Chinese call them. I’m not sure if they “massage” the dried persimmon, but they are all generally all peeled as the skin is too tough to eat. My persimmons are in the freezer as they seem to taste better really cold. In Korea, dried persimmon is used to make a beverage called “soo-jung-gwa” which is also flavored with cinnamon sticks. It’s possible that you might had some in a Korean restaurant without you realizing it.
Quality can vary greatly, so if you are having it for the first time, I hope you stay away from the low quality ones.
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How do you eat a dried persimmon? I got a package today and I don’t know what to do with the powder on it if I should or should not eat it.
Kelly: The white powdery bloom is totally edible and safe. Just enjoy the persimmon as is, as you would a dried apricot or date. Just don’t eat the hard stem end, though.
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I saw a show California Gold hosted by Hewll Houser sorry if i spelled his name wrong. He did a short clip on this fruit. I have started to dry out this fruit in a dehydrator, by slicing them up, but when i saw Hewll’s clip I thought man that looks tasty so I have about 75 of them hanging in my back yard.They get a message twice a day, I cover them up at night so the frost doesn’t effect them don’t know if this is a good thing to do or not???. can’t wait to dig into them they are starting to sugar up on the outside and are looking real tasty.
The powder on its surface is mere sugar which deposited by Drying.
My grandmother teached me that it is better not to eat dried persimmon more than two a day or not to eat with meals, because tannin hinders the absorption of iron.
Mark Marchese:Hello, please keep persimmon away from any moisture,rain and frost.
Moisture and persimmon would be results in tragedy and disappointment.