Have you ever wondered about what kinds of Japanese foods are available on the sweeter side of the palette? Wagashi (pronounced “Wah-gah-she”) is the Japanese word for the confectionary category of traditional Japanese culinary arts.
You may be pleasantly surprised by how many wonderful kinds of classical desserts you may find during your exploration of Japanese culture. The area known as Kyoto, in particular, is well known for having quite an impressive array of creative confectionery selections and also appropriately beautiful places to enjoy eating those ornate and tasty morsels.
One thing you will likely find truly refreshing is that Japanese confections are not generally very sweet. Usually, they are sweetened just right and will not leave the taste buds seeking anymore, nor reeling from any excess.
Let’s look at some of the various kinds of Japanese confections so you can be a little more prepared to select your favorite Japanese sweet.
This is a particularly ornate style of Japanese confection that is often a favorite simply because of its often intricate and creative presentation. Truly artisans are often sculpting amazing concepts from a medium that is primarily rice flour and sugar.
A popular guideline for the creation of namagashi confection, as with most Japanese sweets, is sculpting a depiction of a seasonal occasion found in nature. Usually, more simple forms are common, like the cherry blossoms of spring or the maple leaves of autumn. However, in a proper confectionary, the themes will likely include a wide array of interpretive creativity, though still usually based on nature or traditional celebrations.
One may often wonder if it is best to eat something so beautiful or to simply put it in a display case at an art gallery. Such confections do have a shelf life though, and considering their delectable taste it is important to also appreciate their flavorful hues on your oral palette.
This is a kind of solid and often semi-transparent kind of mass-made using seaweed for a vaguely firm gelatin consistency. You will likely find it in just about any grocery store in Japan, as well as many Japanese groceries in cities beyond Japan.
The variety of artistic scenes depicted inside the yokan can be amazing and such intricate presentations as a pond of fish, complete with a sea bottom, may be found in a small cake the size of the palm of a human hand.
Keeping in mind that these are often produced by small confectionaries that are using more classical means and change designs often, it is a truly beautiful work of artistic craftsmanship and often a very delightful design that goes into making yet another tasty style of traditional Japanese confection.
This unique kind of Japanese treat is shaped like a small disc that has a crispy outer layer and is usually filled with a mildly sweet paste made of red Japanese “Azuki” beans. The crispy outer shell is made with rice flour and is usually pressed with a design of some kind.
This is a very popular kind of Japanese sweet that features a steamed bun-like flour outside and also includes a filling of red bean paste. These are usually shaped like small round or squashed orbs and may have a small design branded onto their outer surface.
Lastly, an ornate and often colorful solid sculpted form of hard rice flour, starch, and sugar are also commonly available in most grocery stores and many specialty confectionaries. Due to their firm consistency and the use of dying techniques, the pressed designs can be truly delightful.
Enjoy your exploration of the world of Japanese confections. It is likely to be pleasant.