One of the places I will be visiting is my family's ancestral home on Shikoku (四国). Shikoku is the smallest of the four major islands of Japan, and is considered the most rural. Most tourists never set foot there, I guess you could say it's kinda like visiting Wyoming instead of New York here in the states.
Within Shikoku, I will be heading specifically to Ehime Prefecture's Yawatahama city. Ehime Prefecture (愛媛県) is the largest producer of citrus in Japan and Yawatahama (八幡浜市) is especially known for its citrus as well as its harbor.
|Shikoku island in brown*|
One of their biggest crops is mikan (蜜柑 or みかん) also known as the satsuma mandarin. These diminutive fruits resemble clementines (marketed here as "Cuties") in their small size, but their bumpy loose skin with large pores make the mikan look more rustic. I love these seedless wonders, especially their lack of pith and easy-to-peel skin.
So until I finally set foot in the Land of the Rising Sun, I'll be trying to share some Shikoku specialties! First up is a fun quick snack, reito/reitou mikan, which is actually popular all over Japan. There's even a crazy song about reito mikan.
|Yawatahama in hot pink*|
Mikans are a winter fruit, so most Japanese historically would peel and eat them sitting around a kotatsu. However, to get them to last until the summer, they would be frozen and stored to be enjoyed later half-frozen, like the world's easiest sorbet.
Of course, it's always ice cream weather here in Southern California, so I have no problem with eating reito mikan all year round. But for those in colder climates with sultry summers, I highly recommend prepping these so you can enjoy them in July to evoke a little bit of winter.
My favorite part? This is a super healthy alternative to a sorbet/ice cream/popsicle craving. A 100g mikan only has about 50 calories, tons of Vitamin C, as well as fiber, zinc, potassium, and Vitamin A.
|Try eating a mikan unfrozen as well!|
*Maps courtesy of wikipedia.
Reito Mikan (冷凍みかん)
fresh mikan (or substitute clementines)
Traditionally, reito mikan have a thin layer of ice all around them to prevent the fruit from drying out. I don't know if that's really necessary, I've never had a problem just popping them into the freezer, I think the thick skin and a freezer bag is good enough protection.
But to get that frosty look, first put the mikan in the freezer overnight. The next day, dip it in a bowl of very cold water, then immediately place in a ziplock bag in the freezer. Repeat the next day, so you get a thin layer of ice around the mikan. As it sits in the freezer, more ice crystals will form on the fruit.
A totally easier way that is gaining traction in Japan, is to pre-peel the mikan before freezing, and then wrap in cling wrap. Place the wrapped mikan in a sturdy freezer bag to avoid freezer burn.
To eat, take the reito mikan out of the freezer and let it sit for about 10-15 minutes until you're able to peel it. Depending on how much ice is on it, running it under cool water (not hot, you don't want to defrost the mikan) helps to remove excess ice. Eat it half/mostly frozen.
I fully realize that peeling a mandarin orange and sticking into the freezer hardly counts as a recipe. I just want you to try this.
Kinkan no Kanroni
Strawberry Bing Tanghulu