Japan’s Fried Maple Leaves

Since Canada is known for (and obsessed with) maple syrup, you’d think that fried maple leaves would be their creation. However, it’s actually Japan that adores these unusual treats. There, chefs collect Japanese maple tree leaves and create what’s called “momiji tempura.”

Minoo Park

During the autumn, you’ll see gorgeous leaves in Minoo Park, which is in Northern Osaka. Local food spots begin selling fried maple leaves to go along with the changing of seasons. It’s been a tradition so long, no one knows exactly when it started, but it’s been thousands of years. The leaves must be cured in salt for a whole year, so you don’t actually eat any of the leaves as you see them change. After the long rest in salt barrels, the leaves are fried in a sweet batter for twenty minutes until crispy.

Interested in making your own? The key is finding the right leaves. You do want the Japanese maple; these are small trees with thin, spindly-looking leaves. Also, be sure to get the leaves when they’re green. Once they turn color, they’re way too fragile.

basic tempura recipe: 

Maple leaves
1 egg
1 cup of chilled water
1 cup flour
¼ cup brown sugar
Pinch of cinnamon
Pinch of nutmeg
Pinch of salt
Vegetable oil

In a bowl, mix water, flour, and egg.

When smooth, gradually whisk in the sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt.

Get out a frying pan that’s no deeper than 1-inch and heat enough oil to fry one

side of a leaf at a time.

When oil reaches 350-degrees ℉, dip the leaves in the batter so they’re

completely coated, and carefully place into the oil.

With a fork, carefully spread out the leaves during the frying process, so they

keep their cool shape.

Fry for 2-3 minutes until golden brown, then flip the leaf over to fry the other side.

Place fried leaves on a rack to cool.

Since leaves themselves don’t have much flavor, it’s all about the batter you use. Experiment with different spices like chai powder, apple spice, or even pumpkin spice. You can also whip up a maple dipping sauce. Serve your creation at a party and stand out!

Battered, fried maple leaves with sesame seeds

Fried leaves photo:
Minoo Park photo: