Japanese people are tightly linked with their culture and traditions. In line with this, their food are often products of the same things. Washoku is their traditional cuisine and their traditional confections are called wagashi (和菓子). Wagashi are best served with tea, especially green tea. It takes a lot of work to make them and there are quite known to have that delicate and wonderful appearance that reflects the culture of the country.
What these sweets are made of
One of the main ingredients in most of the popular Japanese confections are anko or bean paste. These beans are boiled and then sweetened using sugar. They come in two textures: smooth and chunky. Rice cakes, agar, flour, chestnuts and sesame pastes are usually included in there as well. Besides these ingredients, it is the passion and love that are being put into these sweets that makes them what they are.
Often wagashi gets classified based on the way they are produced and on the moisture content they have since it affects the time they are capable of being stored, or their shelf life. Here are the classifications of wagashi.
These are also known as wet confectionary since they have more than 30% and more amount of moisture within them. They usually are the ones that are steamed or fried confections.
- Han namagashi
These sweets are known to have ten to thirty percent moisture content and they are usually the baked confectionaries. They have longer shelf life as compared to namagashi.
Dry confectionary is what higashi means and it also means that it has less than 10% in terms of moisture content. It is still delicious and it has the longest shelf life as compared to the other classifications.
Wagashi to try out
One of the simplest and favorite snack of people in Japan no matter what age they are in, is this traditional sweet named dorayaki. It is two pancakes with azuki bean paste as fillings. The name comes from the appearance of the sweet as it looks like a ‘dora’ which means gong.
Should you be looking for a Japanese sweet that is very photogenic, then this is the one for you. This sweet is made of wafers that are made out of sticky rice and then they are shaped into flowers such as sakura blossoms, plum blossom and a whole lot more.
These are from Kyoto and they are served in two ways: toasted crackers and even soft confection. Yatsunashi are crackers made with rice though that is pounded until it is thin enough and then toasted with perfection using sugar and cinnamon.
One of the most famous sweets of Japan that has long gone and planted its roots in different countries. Mochi is made out of glutinous rice that are pounded until they become paste like in texture. It comes in different kinds such as daifuku, which has red bean paste as filling, sakura, which is wrapped around with a leaf of cherry blossom and a whole lot more.
Straight from the movies and anime is this Japanese sweet with the shape of a fish that are called taiyaki. They are made with pancake patter and then filled up with different flavors such as cheese, chocolate and a whole lot more.
Go, grab these sweets
Since wagashi are part of the Japanese culture, it is normally served in every café and restaurants in Japan. On that note, here are some shops and café where you can get a dose of your favorite sweets or try out a new confection in Tokyo.
This is one of the most famous shops in producing wagashi that are high in quality. They have been creating these traditional sweets for around five hundred years which practically makes them the best there is in Tokyo. Before they only serve their sweets to the Imperial Court, however as things change, they are now selling it to the public as well.
- Café Imasa
If you want a historic experience, then you might want to try out Café Imasa which is located in a house that is old enough to date back to the Edo period. You get to eat some great wagashi, sip some tea of your choice and have a memorable day knowing you are in a place filled with history, a place which has survived through time.
Sasama is one of those wagashi shops that gets you excited because they have this special theme each month, where they make a kind of wagashi that is dependent on the theme. It makes the wagashi all the more interesting and truly that has given them a wow factor on that. They have a lot of regular patrons due to that but also due to their consistently great quality of food.
- Kuriyakashi Kurogi
Inside the University of Tokyo, a hidden gem is present, a café where you mix artistry and food. The café has a lazy afternoon feeling that will make you want to stay for a long time. Also, it is run by Jun Kurogi, one of the most in-demand chef’s in Tokyo. Also, they have made to order wagashi. Added to this, their kitchen is open so that you can see the process of how your wagashi is made.
Established around the late 1890’s, Asaka is one of those wagashi shops that you would love coming back to. They have their signature mochi, called the kinako mochi which is composed of brown sugar and walnut and customers are flooding their shop for it. If you are on your way to a birthday party or any other type of celebration, you can drop by their shop and have some for to go, they have this elegant packaging that is quite perfect for gift giving.
At the end of the day, you should definitely try these confectionaries out or maybe have some for takeout so you can make your friends try out the deliciousness that is wagashi at its finest. The secret to making great wagashi is in the dedication and passion of the one making the sweets.
Alecksandra is a food hobbyist and otaku who has a deep interest in Japanese culture and cuisine. She likes knowing how every food out there in the open came to be, the meaning of their very names, why they taste the way they do and the diverging concepts that are behind every dish. One day she will travel to different countries to go restaurant hopping and share her food adventures to the world.