December sweets

Japanese sweets are very intricate, varied, exotic, and difficult to describe to foreigners who have never had anything that is comparable. The making of wagashi (image search and more pics), or traditional confectionery, is a true art in Japan. We learned on a TV show that wagashi apprentices spend about 15 years perfecting their anko before attempting to make the actual sweets. They are considered masters after 30 or 40 years of practice.

Here, though, I just have some of the everyday desserts that we tried during our December trip to Japan.

Goza souro

Goza souro

This picture shows goza souro being made in the department store Sogo. It’s essentially a sandwich of a soft, dense batter (like a pancake) and sweet bean paste.

French toast with azuki

French toast with azuki


This was Yusuke’s dessert at Denny’s, of all places. Only the menu wasn’t anything like what you find in North America. A prime example was this French toast with azuki beans and pumpkin ice cream.

Chocolate mochi

Chocolate mochi


Mochi is glutinous rice that is pounded— traditionally with a mallet— into a soft, sticky, erm, mass. It can be eaten in many ways, but these mochi balls were coated in cocoa powder. One of Yusuke’s sisters, a chocoholic, ate nearly all of the ones that we bought for the family, but I managed to snatch a taste of one.

Kuzu-kiri

Kuzu-kiri


Kuzu-kiri consists of flat gelatinous, noodle-like stuff made of starch from the kuzu plant. My explanation in words doesn’t make much sense, so more pics are here and here. The chilled “noodles,” for lack of a better word, are dipped in a sweet syrup to give them flavour. Yusuke describes the taste as very “gentle.”

Shiruko

Oshiruko


I wrote about oshiruko (sweet azuki “soup”) before, but it was particularly wonderful at this sweets shop in Kamakura. The homemade mochi was lightly toasted and perfectly chewy. Yuuummmmm.

Rum ball

Rum ball


We had fabulous rum balls at Yusuke’s uncle’s house. They were bigger than a golf ball, filled with dense rum cake and coated in chocolate, tastefully served on a Hello Kitty plate. Very rich, but perfectly balanced by green tea.

Ohagi

Ohagi


Ohagi is an extremely yummy sweet—definitely one of my most favourite new discoveries on our trip. It’s basically squished sweet rice coated with sweet bean paste (anko) or other ingredients. For example, we also had black sesame and edamame bean ohagi. It’s not sugary-sweet like Western cakes or cookies (even though it does have TONS of sugar). The about.com article describes it well and so does the explanation on Just Hungry.

Year of the Cow

Year of the Cow


We had these cute sweets, decorated in honour of the Year of the Cow, at a friend’s house. They are manju, a small cake filled with azuki paste. The outside has a thin layer of hardened icing. The effect is somewhat similar to a petit-four.

Sweet potato and chestnut cake

Sweet potato and chestnut cake


This cake was selected by Yusuke to serve as his birthday cake. It was not overly sweet, instead having a more subtle and rich taste, made with sweet potatoes, pumpkin, chestnuts, and light icing. He didn’t want to admit it was his birthday, though…
ult

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