Mandarin oranges, clementines, satsumas, whatever you may call them, are usually a fruit associated with the winter months, sitting cozy indoors and peeling one or two or five at a time. However, there are varieties of beloved summertime citrus in Japan, too. Perhaps the most notable is natsumikan, or the summer mandarin. Its origins can be traced to the town of Hagi in Yamaguchi Prefecture along the Sea of Japan. There, natsumikan form in the autumn and slowly ripen until the following summer. In 1926 when Emperor Hirohito visited the town, he said, “The perfume grows in this town,” in reference to the sweet scent of the natsumikan blossoms that fill the air. Now, Hagi is known as one of 100 Most Fragrant Towns in Japan (yes, that classification truly exists). While our mandarin salad does not utilize actual summer mandarin oranges, it imparts the sweet and cooling flavors of citrus in summertime and is a joy for the taste buds. (Serves 2-3)
1/8 head cabbage, chopped
¼ to ½ daikon, peeled and thinly sliced into bite-size pieces
1 small can mandarin oranges (8 – 11 oz.)
½ cucumber, thinly sliced
½ teaspoon vegetable oil
½ to 1 teaspoon sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
Medium saucepan, sieve, medium bowl. Optional: cheesecloth
1. Bring a saucepan full of water to a rolling boil. Add the cabbage and daikon, and boil for 30 to 60 seconds. Drain into a sieve, and rinse under cold water until cooled.
2. Using your hands or cheesecloth, squeeze as much water out of the vegetables as you can.
3. Place the cabbage mixture, oranges, cucumber, oil, sugar, and salt and pepper in a bowl, and mix well. Chill to serve.