Obon Festivals are an annual Japanese Buddhist tradition, honoring the departed spirits of one's ancestors. My friend describes it as the Buddhist Dia de los Muertos/Day of the Dead.
I'm thrilled that Foodbuzz selected my proposal for this month's Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24, a unique monthly food blogging event covering 24 meals on 24 blogs in 24 hours. My proposal: Eating my way through festival food! Come along!
Welcome to the Higashi Honganji Buddhist Temple's 50th Annual Obon Festival!
Buddhist temples and churches have Obon Festivals in the summer to celebrate their heritage, religion and family connections. Obons are known for unique and yummy foods prepared by church members. Like most children, I remember eating my way through festivals. While my friends have memories of hot dogs and corn dogs at the county fair, I remember rice, noodles, and the wonder of dango.
Even though I wasn't raised Buddhist, my family would attend the local Buddhist Obon festival. The chance to win a goldfish or glass cup in the dime toss (I'll tell you that story later), and eat some comfort food draws families from all faiths.
Used with permission, Estelle Ishigo, Obon, 1942 - 1945, Japanese American National Museum (94.195.10F)
This pencil drawing by Estelle Ishigo was made during WWII in the Heart Mountain, Wyoming internment camp. That is how far back and important these festivals are to the Japanese American community.
Higashi Honganji Buddhist Temple in downtown Los Angeles (Little Tokyo). Founded in 1904, the Los Angeles Higashi Honganji Buddhist Temple is a member of the Shinshu Otani-ha denomination with its headquarters in Kyoto, Japan. This year, they celebrated their 50th Obon Festival!
somen noodles. These cold noodles are perfect on a hot summer day!
Spam musubi. Spam, rice, seaweed and sauce.
This was a new one for me! The Dango Dog. Hot dog dipped in dango batter. A sweeter corn dog! They were also making Oreo dangos but they were sold out.
We found some great, inexpensive produce at the farmer's market at the festival. Nothing like Japanese pumpkin (kabocha) and tomatillos! The festival also had a bake sale, flower and plant sale and white elephant/bazaar area.
Here is a slide show of Bon Odori photos:
Whew! That was a lot of food and fun. Thanks for coming along on our eating tour!
Whatever your faith, I hope you take time this summer to spend time with family and honor your family members who came before you. Give them a some thanks...and perhaps a little dango.
There are a million different Okinawa Dango recipes out there...believe me, I'm made it my mission to try all of them. Variations include: thick crust, density, size, sprinkling of powdered sugar, and the addition of cinnamon flavor. I want to share my mom's with you. My mom came to Los Angeles on a student visa in the late 1960's. She arrived with very few possessions, very little English and big dreams.
Okinawan Dangos (originally published in this December 2007 post)
Mix together in large bowl: 3 c flour, 1 T baking powder, 1 c sugar, 1/2 t salt
Beat together in small bowl or measuring glass: 5 eggs, 1/4 c milk, 1 t vanilla
Mix the dry and wet batches together by hand (with a wooden spoon or spatula) until dough forms. Do not overmix. Heat a wok or deep-fryer with vegetable or canola oil. Form dough into small balls with your hands or with an ice cream scoop/cookie dough disher before dropping into the oil. Fry until golden brown. Makes 36 dangos.
The amazing thing about Obon festivals is that they only occur once a year, and most of the city doesn't even know about it. If you are in Southern California and Nevada, there are still some Obon Festivals to attend this summer! You can find a calendar here.
Thanks to the good people at FoodBuzz and VISA Signature for this great opportunity!
Be sure to check out all the other 23 bloggers in this event!