Taste Test: Persimmon

Image via Sandy Austin's Flickr

People always ask me what I like to do in Tokyo. What's fun? What's cool. Well here's my dirty secret. Most nights, I sit in my parents' living room and watch silly game shows while drinking green tea and eating persimmon.


Peel and thinly slice 2 inches of fresh ginger root. Bring the ginger, 6 cups of water, and 2 cinnamon sticks to a boil in a large saucepan. Reduce heat to low and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes. Add 1/2c sugar and stir until dissolved. Remove from heat and strain. Add 4 dried seedless persimmons to the cinnamon-ginger water and allow to stand for 3 hours to soften. Ladle liquid into individual serving bowls, placing one persimmon in each bowl. Sprinkle pine nuts on top before serving.

Source: Korean Cooking Made Easy by Soon Young Chung

Persimmon is called kaki in Japanese, and it has been constantly battling against mangoes for first place on my list of favorite fruits. Kaki is a prominent part of everyday life in Japan — there's even an adjective almost exclusively used to describe the taste of a bitter persimmon, shibui. (The only other time it's used is to describe older men with graying hair who are nonetheless hot, like George Clooney.)

China, Japan, and Korea are the top three producers of persimmon in the world. The Chinese believe that the fruit helps to regulate energy flow. It's also known to cure digestive problems, and it's a great source of B and C vitamins.

In Korea, some people use dried persimmons to make a traditional fruit punch-like drink called Sujeonggwa. It's supposedly great with soju, too!

In the US, I see a lot of restaurants use cooked fuyu persimmon around this time of the year to supplement salads and meats, but I prefer to eat it raw once its blood orange skin has turned ever slightly soft.

Every installment of Taste Test will explore recipes, the science, and some history behind a specific food item.