What would you like to eat when you drink a cup of green tea or latte? I always choose something sweet to help balance the bitter flavor of the drinks, such as a piece of cheese cake, a small plate of Taosu (a kind of cookie); or maybe some cute wagashi.
Wagashi (和菓子) are traditional Japanese sweets that are typically enjoyed in combination with green tea or matcha. The most incredible thing about wagashi, is not only about their flavors, but even more, is about their ever-changing shapes. I always describe wagashi by saying that “There are many different results under one same subject.” They are creative sweets contain so many imagination and inner peaceful of the confectioner, who give life and vitality to the dessert.
Wagashi is a collective title of lots of different types of Japanese snacks. They have a diverse ingredients and preparation methods. Some are popular across the country and around the year while others are only available regionally or seasonally. Wagashi is also very popular as tourism goods and gifts. Its exquisite and beautiful appearance and high quality of flavor often attract a large number of consumers from different places around the world.
Sweet azuki bean paste (anko) is a central ingredient in a large number of Japanese sweets. Boiled azuki beans are sweetened with sugar and mashed to create either smooth anko (koshian) or chunky anko (tsubuan). Other common ingredients for wagashi include rice cakes (mochi), rice flour, Japanese agar (kanten), sesame paste and chestnuts. Dango and Taiyaki are very popular snacks in spring, especially when people go to see the cherry blossom with family or friends.
Namagashi (lit. raw sweets) are traditional Japanese sweets that are most often associated with wagashi. They are made of rice flour and a sweet bean paste filling, and are delicately shaped by hand to reflect the season. Namagashi are served at the tea ceremony.
Daifuku are made of soft rice cake (mochi) wrapped around a small round of smooth, sweet bean paste or other fillings. They are covered with a light dusting of potato starch to keep them from sticking together. Popular daifuku variations include strawberry (ichigo), beans (mame) and ice cream. Daifuku should be eaten quickly as they become hard if left exposed.
Dango are chewy, small, steamed dumplings made of rice flour. They are typically served skewered three or four to a stick and topped with a sweet sauce or bean paste. The dumplings are also added into other desserts like anmitsu and oshiruko. Like daifuku, dango are best eaten fresh.
Taiyaki are fish-shaped snacks made of batter similar to pancake batter and filled with sweet bean paste, although alternative, modern fillings include custard cream, chocolate or cheese. Taiyaki are best eaten hot off the grill when the batter is still crispy.
Monaka consists of a wafer shell filled with sweet bean paste. The wafer shells come in different shapes and sizes from simple, round shells to more intricately designed ones. A popular modern variation of monaka is filled with ice cream. The wafer shells tend to go stale once exposed to air and should be eaten as soon as possible.
Most of the wagashi are hard to find outside Japan, if you are interested in these cute desserts, Daifuku, Yokan and Dorayaki are easy to be found on Amazon and Yamibuy.