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Blessings & Tastes of the Island, Part 35: Dragon Fruit Buds
post : 2019.09.25 06:00
Colorful fruits of various kinds are available in abundance during the mid-summers in Okinawa. Lining the shelves at the markets are pineapples, passion fruits, watermelons, mangoes, and many other fruits with vivid colors. Mentioned as “edible cactus” in a previous article, the brilliant pink dragon fruits are a popular, juicy fruit and can be enjoyed as they are or used as an ingredient for jellies, juice, syrup for shaved ice, and other delicious treats.
Dragon fruit flowers often bloom from the evening to morning hours, and nocturnal creatures like moths and bats assist in their pollination. According to one farmer, dragon fruit flowers tend to bloom on nights of a full moon. In the darkness of night, these flowers release their distinctive, sweet fragrance, attracting many insects. When you come across a sweet aroma on a midsummer’s night in Okinawa, it’s likely a sign of dragon fruit flowers blooming nearby. If you wake up early enough in the morning, you may be fortunate and catch a glimpse of these flowers of mystical and alluring beauty.
Every year, these juicy dragon fruits adorn themselves with beautiful flowers. At the market one day, I saw packages of an unfamiliar produce that were labeled, “Dragon Fruit Buds”.
In the months of July and August, dragon fruit buds and the vibrant pink-colored dragon fruits are displayed side-by-side at the markets.
“Dragon fruit buds?? I wonder how you’d eat them.”
Not knowing how to eat them, days and months passed without me purchasing these mysterious packages…Then, a few years ago, I attended a potluck and met the owner of Ukishima Garden, a macrobiotic restaurant in Naha, who said to me, “I preserved some dragon fruit buds in sugar. Would you like to try?”
I was surprised and eagerly helped myself. The texture was soft and slightly moist, similar to bamboo shoots, and they were delightful. The sugaring really brought out its uniqueness.
“Wow, this is good!” I was impressed with the skills of this vegetable-handler who also said, “They’re good as tempura, or boiled and dressed with olive oil and salt, or stir-fried with garlic, too.” Since learning how to eat them, the dragon fruit buds have become a regular ingredient in our homecooking during their season, which is from June to around the end of September. In this article, I’ll introduce a favorite dish in our family, the Dragon Fruit Bud Tempura.
Plate by Yoshiriki Yamada
Dragon fruit buds are formed as they prepared to bloom, and look like long, narrow artichokes. They’re cute and charming in appearance.
Plate by Nana Akimoto
Cut the buds in half (or even in quarters if they’re big), sprinkle salt for a base flavor, and, dip them in a batter prepared with flower and Mochi flour. Then slowly fry them in oil heated to about 170 degrees.
When the oil bubbles get smaller and the buds have a light brown color, they’re ready to be removed from the oil.
Let the extra oil drip off, and they’re ready to be served.
Plate by Katsushi Shimabukuro
Add a cut of Oto, a citrus from Yanbaru that’s similar to the Shikwasa, and a pinch of salt made in Hamahiga Island, and they’re ready. It has a crispy batter, and the bud is delightfully fluffy like a potato but with a texture like taro. The Oto citrus has little bitterness, and the citrus brings out the freshness as it blends with the texture. This is a great, light dish that’s perfect during the hot season, and its aftertaste will keep you coming back for more.
I used a blend of flour and Mochi flour so that the tempura would still be delicious even when they’re cold.
Still, I recommend that you enjoy them while they’re hot to really enjoy the taste of dragon fruit buds.
[Inquiries for Items Introduced in the Article]
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Okinawa CLIP photo writers, monobox (Tetsumasa & Kozue Kawano)