Thursday, September 11, 2008
Japanese (Nashi) Pears
Okay, so not every snack I write about is going to be junk food. However, this is still a snack and it's still Japanese. The truth is that I eat more fruit as a snack than junk food, but little of it is unique in any way. After all, there's little need to review a banana.
This particular bit of fruity goodness gets a special mention because it's something unique to Japan and it happened to be what I had to snack on for awhile. When they're in season, you can pick these up at Tokyo markets for between 80-200 yen (74 cents - $1.85) per pear. Buying a bag of 5 is the cheapest way to get them, but then I'm eating them for nearly a week in an attempt to consume them before they go bad. Keep in mind that, for Japanese fruit which tends to be quite small, these are freaking huge pears. It's a challenge to eat an entire one by yourself.
You might ask yourself why I don't find some way to eat them by cooking them into something, much as we do apples, bananas, and other bits of fruity tidbits that we can fold into cakes or pies. That takes us to the essence of the Japanese pear. They are very watery so it's tricky to cook them into things. Though word is you can make tarts with them, I'd rather not try given that all of the recipes I find for nashi pears seem to look like they were made with butter pears. These pears are best eaten peeled and cut up into wet wedges. The peel is rather rough and not all that pleasant to bite through so I don't recommend just biting into them.
These pears get referred to as "apple pears" by people who look at the shape and assume they are a hybrid of these two fruits. This is a pretty reasonable conclusion to make not only because it has the shape of an apple but the color of a pear, but because it also tastes like both fruits combined. However, they are not a mixture of apples and pear. It has the tartness of an apple, but the juice and sweetness of a pear. The flesh is also like an apple though it's much crisper and less dense than some apples. It's certainly not as mealy as some varieties of apple. One tip that I'd like to offer about preparing them is to cut out the central core. Even though it's soft in the center and could be eaten, I think the center has a strange and unpleasant taste.
When these pears first start showing up, I'm very happy to eat them. If I had to choose between these and an apple, I'd take the pears any day as they are lighter and easier to digest than apples. That being said, I don't tend to crave these like I do some other fruit like cherries, peaches or grapes. By the time I've had them a few times when they're in season, I've grown tired of them. They're definitely worth trying if you come across them. They won't set your world on fire, but they are quite satisfying, especially if it's hot and you're looking for a high moisture fruit which won't cost you as much (or hassle you as much to prepare) as a water melon.