Sansai are edible wild vegetables that grow in the spring and early summer in Japan. In the Gifu prefecture area, we go sansai picking in the surrounding fields and forests in April and May. I believe that by eating Mother Nature’s wild budding greens we derive extra strength and resilience. We are lucky to have plenty of them in this region. When foraging wild vegetables in the forest, it is important to go with a local guide to make sure that you only pick edible plants and stay safe from the hungry bears that are also after the wild vegetables! As shown in my video, a local guide will ensure you have a safe and memorable experience.
In this recipe, I use sansai wild vegetables foraged here in Japan. Alternatively, you can use green asparagus, green beans, broad beans, zucchini and its flower, and seafood. Pair it with soba noodles for a classic Japanese lunch or dinner (as pictured). Of course, you can make tempura year round using seasonal vegetables, seafood, or even ice cream! Have a look at me teaching my students the tempura method, and then join me in cooking this favorite Japanese dish!
Tempura of Sansai, hand-picked wild vegetables 自生の山菜の天ぷら
- 4 taranome (or green beans)
- 4 kogomi (baby fiddlehead ferns)
- 4 koshiabura
- deep frying vegetable oil (canola, soybean, or sunflower oil) as needed
- grated daikon (white radish)
- oil absorbent paper towel
For dipping sauce
- 50ml mirin
- 50ml light soy sauce
- 200ml ichiban dashi stock
For tempura batter
- 1 egg
- cold water as needed
- plain weak wheat flour as needed
- Crack one egg into a mixing bowl and beat well with chopsticks.
- Pour cold water into it and mix well.
- Add flour to the mixture and stir slightly with chopsticks.
- Do not mix well or the batter gets too starchy.
- In a large saucepan, heat oil to 160°C on medium heat.
- Sprinkle flour lightly over the sansai and dip into batter one by one and deep fry.
- Turn the vegetables over once and cook until crisp.
- Drain well by gently shaking out excess oil.
- Serve the tempura on oil absorbent paper with dipping sauce and grated daikon, white radish.
As mentioned above, for the Japanese, Mother Nature plays an important part in every day life. We don't just marvel at her beauty, but rather we incorporate her into our lives by strengthening our mind, body and spirit with her goodness. During the spring and summer months, sansai is an important part of our diet. Below, are some examples of common wild vegetables found in the Gifu forest. Next time on the blog, we will be cooking an easy one-pot meal using wild foraged veggies, so make sure to check back!