Dining with Asian Food and Wine

Dining with Asian Food and Wine: August OBON FESTIVAL in Japan


Ronald Jan, M. D.

The month of August (7th Lunar month) marks Japan’s famous Obon Festival. Of Buddhist origin this festival honors the deceased ancestors and is celebrated in August with food and a special Obon Dance. The food originally followed Buddhist traditions of being primarily vegetarian but over the years the festival has adopted a variety of foods. In Sacramento at his restaurant, Kru’s owner and chef, Billy Ngo, features many traditional and contemporary Japanese dishes suitable for the Obon Festival.

08 01 Uni Penna Cota

[Uni Panna Cotta. Photo Courtesy of Ronald Jan, M.D.]

One such contemporary dish is Uni Panna Cotta. Here the Chef and owner of Kru, Billy Ngo, has taken a traditional Italian custard-like dessert (Panna Cotta) and by blending bits of cooked SEA URCHIN with cream to form a creamy custard. It yields a briny yet creamy appetizer topped with bits of raw SEA URCHIN.

08 01 Uni Penna Cota with Tempra Bread

[Uni Panna Cotta with bread & tempura. Photo Courtesy of Ronald Jan, M.D.]

 This is then served with thin slices of bread baked in his restaurant then grilled to make a crisp, biscotti-like accompaniment and tempura covered SEAWEED.

As with many sea foods this dish would pair well with many white wines especially from port cities sufficiently aromatic with enough acid to cut through the creaminess of the Panna Cotta. Examples of such wines are Spain’s Albarino or Treixidura, France’s Muscadet Sevre et Maine (aka Melon de Bourgogne), and Greece’s Assyrtiko.

08 01 Bagoa Do Mino

Spain’s Albarino from Rias Baixas

[Photo Courtesy of Ronald Jan, M.D.]

08 01 Muscadet Sevre Maine Sur LIE


France’s Muscadet Sevre et Maine (aka Melon de Bourgogne) from Loire Valley

[Photo Courtesy of Ronald Jan, M.D.]

08 01 Assyrtiko

Greece’s Assyrtiko from Island of Santorini

[Photo Courtesy of Ronald Jan, M.D.]

or a sparkling wine such as Lusso Della Terra’s Barbera Petillant Naturel (aka “Pet-Nat”) in Amador County, California.

08 01 Lusso Della Terra

Lusso Della Terra’s Barbera Petillant (aka “Pet-Nat”)

[Photo Courtesy of Ronald Jan, M.D.]

This “Pet-Nat” has sufficient acid from both the Barbera grape and the Petillant Naturel Process. The berry flavors of raspberries and red cherries will balance the briny flavors of Uni (Sea Urchin) and the acid will cut through and contrast the creamy texture of the Panna Cotta.

08 01 Obon Dancers 2

[Obon Dancers. Photo from www.bestofwhere.com]

The Obon Festival is highlighted by a special Obon Dance with dancers in traditional Kimonos.  Whether you dance or simply enjoy the serenity and beauty of the dance, you will enjoy the Uni Panna Cotta and Lusso Della Terra’s Barbera Pet-Nat sparkling wine.


About the author: Dr. Ronald G. Jan who specializes in Vascular Surgery is a Clinical Professor of Surgery at the University of California at Davis School of Medicine. As a hobby, he holds WSET level 3 certification in wines and has been writing and publishing wine commentaries attracting lots of readers.

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