Re-run alert: I’m reusing a post from my old food blog…but I think it’s still a good one!
Japanese sweets are very intricate, varied, exotic, and difficult to describe to people 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 (red bean paste) 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 everyday desserts.
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.
This was a dessert at Denny’s, of all places. The menu isn’t anything like what you find in North America, and a prime example was this French toast with sweet azuki beans and pumpkin ice cream.
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 my sisters-in-law, 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 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. The taste can be described as very “gentle.”
This oshiruko (sweet azuki “soup”) was particularly wonderful at this sweets shop in Kamakura. The homemade mochi was lightly toasted and perfectly chewy. Yuuummmmm.
We had fabulous rum balls at a relative’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 is an extremely yummy sweet—definitely one of my favourites. It’s basically squished sweet rice coated with sweet bean paste (anko) or other ingredients. For example, we’ve also had black sesame, edamame bean, and matcha 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.
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.
This cake was not overly sweet, instead having a more subtle and rich taste, made with sweet potatoes, pumpkin, chestnuts, and light icing.