It was the time I had to develop sweets for Wasoukan Café (Notting Hill, London) for July. It is a ‘Kimono’ shop with a café counter that the staff serves ‘Matcha’ Green Tea in a Tea Ceremony style and also two types of monthly Japanese sweets. Yes, their sweets are made by me and I have been developing two new Japanese sweets every month for them. The staff told me that they were amazed at the popularity of ‘Mochi’. So I had to decide what kind of Mochi sweet I should deliver to them for this month… I wanted a colour and the flavour which go well with the Mochi texture and considered several possibilities and then an idea came to my mind.
It is a Mochi type of sweet with Purple Sweet Potato Paste. Western people are rather sceptical about the idea of using Sweet Potato as a sweet but in Japan we love to use several root vegetables as sweet and Sweet Potato is one of the most popular ones. It has the natural sweetness and more importantly the flavour goes so well as the Japanese sweet. I saw some BBC program which introduced the reason that many people live a very long healthily life in one area of Japan was due to Purple Sweet Potato. They did not show any scientific evidence to this theory so I am not sure if it is true or not but one thing I can say is we like Purple Sweet Potatoes.
Purple Sweet Potato Mochi
So, here is my Sweet Potato Mochi. It is not just a normal Sweet Potato Mochi but it is a “Purple Sweet Potato Mochi” for this month. 😀
Oh, it’s nice to have a little rain today. I know it is not as hot or humid as how Japan is at the moment, but it has been very hot here in London. It is also in the height of Wimbledon Season here and the British People’s minds are also heating up in cheering British male No.1 player Andy Murray and the female player Johanna Konta. Both of them just got through to the quarter-final yesterday. Hooray!
Anyway, where there is an event, there is also a famous food or drink, isn’t there? For instance if the event is RHS Flower show, it is a Pimms and if the event is Wimbledon, it is certainly ‘Strawberries and Cream’. It sounds so stylish but it is actually just some fresh strawberries serving with cream on top, but people love to have it in the court side or ‘Henman’s Hill’ whilst cheering for their favourite players.
So, as an homage to this Wimbledon season I wanted to arrange this traditional British dessert into some Japanese sweet, but how …. ?
Strawberries and Cream Cup
This is the outcome of all my thinking about ‘Strawberries and Cream’. It is made of a traditional Japanese Sweet called ‘Nerikiri’ and I shaped it into a very western looking sweet. I placed three small strawberries and some cream in a cup which is also made of Nerikiri pastry and of course you can eat the whole thing including this cup.
It has been quite good weather for a while in London. It sometimes rains during the evening and is sunny in the daytime. This is perfect for the plants. In the meantime the rainy season continues in Japan and although it is not the typical season even Typhoon is approaching now. I have seen so many photos of beautiful Hydrangea from Japan which is in full bloom in bright pink and blue in the rain. Yes, the rain is good for plants, definitely. However, sometimes it rains just too much even for Japanese so that people, particularly children, wish it would stop and become sunny the following day …
You might not know but there is such a traditional magic to stop the rain in Japan. It is a charm and you don’t need a magic wand. You don’t need a magical powder. Instead, what you need is a simple mascot! The mascot is called ‘Teru Teru Bōzu’ and you can easily create one by yourself. I assume you are motivated to try making this Japanese traditional Please-Stop-The-Rain-Tomorrow-Mascot. I add “How to make Teru Teru Bōzu” at the end of this post so that you can make one. 🙂
Teru Teru ‘Mochi’ Bōzu
Teru Teru Bōzu is the symbol of this rainy season. Why not have it as a sweet?
It is ‘Tsuyu’ Rainy season again, I mean in Japan. Instead, we are having a heat wave here in London right now. Actually it is the longest heat wave in June for 20 years. But back to talking about the rainy season in Japan. We get an announcement when the rainy season starts in each region, however, it is quite common that it stops raining after the declaration. This year seems to be the example of that year because I just checked today’s weather in Japan and saw ☀ for almost all the area.
Anyway, however the weather is, it is June and it is the begining of the rainy season and the symbol of the season is ‘Ajisai’ Hydrangea flower.
Last year I designed a Japanese sweet Hydrandea by getting inspiration from the flower of June. It was a ‘Nerikiri’ type of sweet. However, because ‘Mochi’ is very popular in London, I have been trying to think how I could make this flower in a Mochi type of sweet. I came up with an idea and here is the result.
Do you know today, the 16th of June, is “the Wagashi Day”? ‘Wagashi’ means Japanese Sweet in general but how is this day connected with Japanese Sweet and what do people do this day?
The Wagashi Day and Sixteen Sweets
It started in the year of 848 in the Heian period when plague was spreading throughout Japan. With the hope that this disease would stop and everybody would live healthily and happily, the Emperor Ninmyō changed the era to Kashō and prayed to the God with an offering of sixteen Japanese sweets. It was on the 16th of June and the number of the sweet offering was associated with the date. Since then this day became the Wagashi Day and people ate Japanese sweets and wished a happy life. This custom carried on until the Edo period.
Sadly the custom diminished sometime later, but in 1979 Japan Wagashi Association reintroduced the Wagashi Day back into society by wishing that people would continue appreciating the magnificent Japanese sweet and carry on the beautiful food culture for future generations.
Although I have liked eating Japanese Sweet Wagashi since my childhood, it is not that long ago that I started making it myself. Since then I realised that Wagashi is such a versatile sweet which is made from very limited ingredients of just beans, rice powder and sugar basically. By wishing this world becomes a safe and wonderful place to everybody I re-introduce 16 sweets of mine that I made last year 2016.
Enjoy your Wagashi Day! 😀
In my garden, Lilac flowers have gone and the marvellous scent of Mock Orange (Philadelphus) flowers is filling up the atmosphere instead now. I know Sakura, Cherry blossom, season is over and I have to admit that I made this sweet a few weeks ago but did not have a chance to post here.
It is a ‘Mochi’ type sweet with a hint or two of Sakura Cherry Blossom essence.
So what is the Sakura essence that I added to this sweet?
As a part of the story of ‘Hanami’ (Cherry Blossom viewing) I have introduced a sweet called ‘Hanami-Dango’ in April. It is a tri-coloured Mochi on a skewer which is a traditional and popular sweet in Japan. Yes, it is a tradition that Hanami-Dango is composed of three balls in green, white and pink colours. I also explained why it has to be in those colours and why in that order. However, It is my nature to try arranging things to create something different and Dango is no exception so I made un-traditional Dango.
This is Mochi Dango with two types of Mochi and toppings.
The month of May has just started. The biggest event in this month is on the 5th which is called ‘Kodomo-no-Hi’ the Children’s Day. It is the day we celebrate the healthy growth and happiness of children and do some ceremonies or eat some special food on this day. I have introduced some of the traditions we do last year over two posts.
Last year I made two sweets in this Kodomo-no-Hi theme. One is ‘Koinobori’ the Carp and the other one is ‘Shobu’ the Iris and I wanted to make something different this year. I got an idea from some object we make with Origami. The photo on the right side is the thing I used as the base design. I hope you can guess what it is.
It is a ‘Kabuto’ the Samurai Helmet made with Origami.
‘Kabuto’ the Samurai Helmet
So for this year’s Children’s Day I made ‘Kabuto’ the Samurai Helmet in Origami style with Japanese sweet ‘Nerikiri’.
Winter in Japan is very cold and snowy but once Spring comes all the plants in the field and mountain start to grow rapidly. As you might know already Japanese like to add some seasonal touch into food and it can be a shape or some flavour added to create a taste of the delightful season.
One of the wild Plants we traditionally add into making Mochi is ‘Yomogi’ leaves. It is a type of Mugworts (Artemisia indica var. maximowiczii) and it used to grow anywhere by the road or field. The upper side of leaves is dark green and the lower side is white-ish colour covered with tiny hair like structure. When you mix the leaves into a sweet it gives a dark green colour but what we like the most about using this plant is the very distinctive slightly bitter flavour that it gives. When it’s added to sweet and combined with sweet bean paste the bitterness of the leaves enhances the sweetness of the bean taste and creates the harmony in flavour.
I created this Yomogi Mochi as one of the sweets for having during the ‘Hanami’ Cherry Blossom viewing occasion.
It’s Easter weekend. In some shops during this season you see many sweets in the Easter theme. They are mainly chocolate in either a rabbit bunny shape or eggs and chicks. I know it is an event for Christian people but I cannot help myself not to think of some Japanese sweet to make for this occasion.
I have made some chicks with Japanese sweet ‘Nerikiri’ before so this year I wanted to make something else. When I was making ‘Hanami-Dango’ (in my previous post) I got the idea of making eggs with the ‘Mochi’ sweet and also some other sweets to compose the nest to place eggs in …
Easter Mochi Eggs & Yatsuhashi Nest
So this is the Japanese sweet I thought for the Easter theme this year.