Wagashi, The Art of Japanese Cakes
Wagashi much given to friends and family as gifts and souvenirs from people who’ve traveled to Japan. Wagashi often used as a unique gift because this Japanese cakes are very beautiful and delicious.
Not many people outside Japan know about the cake that has a long tradition and culture there. But here we’ll take you, Pandalings, to know about wagashi closer. You will surely amazed at its beauty, like a work of art!
Wagashi are traditional Japanese sweets. They are generally extremely fancy and beautiful, each one a little work of art. Traditionally, wagashi are used mainly for the Japanese tea ceremony as well as for festivals, special occasions, and temple ceremonies. There are also wagashi eaten as everyday treats, but those are generally more simply designed and colored.
Tea ceremony wagashi can be classified overall as either ‘dry sweets’ or ‘moist sweets’. Dry sweets are quite small (about the size of half pinky finger) and usually crunchy. They come in imaginative shapes and colors.
Moist wagashi are about the size of a golf ball and basically round. They are molded or carved into hundreds of gorgeous designs. These wagashi can be sub-divided into many categories- so many that I never really learned all the different classifications. Usually each wagashi has a name.
Moist sweets are the main ‘food’ during most tea ceremonies, eaten to accompany matcha tea, much like westerners eat cake with coffee or biscuits with tea. Wagashi’s sweetness offsets the very strong, bitter taste of matcha- powdered green tea- which is served during tea ceremony. Unlike other teas, matcha is tea powder make from super finely-ground tea leaves. During tea ceremony, matcha is diluted in hot water, then whisked into a thick bright green drink, topped by froth. The tea leaves are actually ingested- a quite powerful taste, aroma, and caffeine boost!
Moist wagashi are mostly made from very fine rice flour, various bean pastes, and super-fine sugar, but others are made mostly with agar-agar, a type of jelly. The fine rice flour creates a super-finely-textured sticky dough that is soft and smooth as silk. For most wagashi, this dough is raw rather than cooked. White, yellow, green and red bean pastes are used for fillings or to make entire wagashi. The bean pastes come in many different textures, from super fine textured through to very chunky. Pumpkin, water chestnut paste, sweet potatoes, powdered green tea, seaweed, and some exclusively Japanese plants are often used as fillings, coloring, and flavorings.
Wagashi come in all colors of the rainbow. Many are white on the outside (the rice flour dough) and filled with some sort of bean paste. Wagashi that are made entirely of red bean paste are a dark purplish-red color. But wagashi made entirely of fine white or yellow bean paste come in all sorts of colors: white, pale pink, bright pink, shades of green, shades of yellow, lavendar, and pale blue. Agar-agar wagashi also come in all colors of the rainbow, and are distinguished by their transparency, just like jelly or jello.
There are also baked varieties of wagashi, with a golden-baked outer shell and filled with bean paste, sweet potato, chestnut, or pumpkin. Other wagashi types are steamed. Oh, so many varieties!
Apparently not all of wagashi is always the same, some were manufactured and designed only for certain seasons. So for every season there will be new kinds of wagashi.
Wagashi are often designed for different seasons, like all Japanese cuisine. There are special spring, summer, autumn and winter wagashi. There are also particular wagashi for New Year’s, Cherry Blossom Viewing, and other traditional annual festivals. Seasonal wagashi vary greatly in colors and designs. For example, in autumn chrysanthemum shapes are favored. Spring wagashi often come in the shape of a plum flower. Famous wagashi for Cherry Blossom Season actually use cherry blossoms and leaves for flavoring and design.
You certainly want to taste it, right? If you want to buy try to find in department stores, stores that sell Japanese cakes or Japanese confectionery store. Surely will be more choices when you buy it in Japan directly.
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