Autumn is here! It is the season that some particular delicacies appear in food markets. Such delicacies are mushrooms, persimmon, nuts and so much more. Amongst all these foods in this season the one that stands out especially for Japanese people is definitely Sweet Chestnut. We love Chestnuts very much. We use them for making all sorts of sweets and even for savoury dishes. The most loved sweet with chestnuts in Japan is undoubtedly Mont Blanc which of course is a western cake with a soft sponge as the base and topped up with a swirl of sweet delicious chestnuts cream. Every Autumn when I find sweet chestnuts at a front of green groceries I have been thinking that I would arrange this nations favourite cake into a Japanese sweet ‘Wagashi’ someday.
Mochi Mont Blanc
So this year I finally managed to make my own Japanese sweet version of Mont Blanc. Instead of sponge I used soft sweet ‘Mochi’, rice cake, as the base. For making the delicious Chestnut flavour to stand out, I selected simple plain flavoured one.
I visited Kensington Gardens in September and noticed there were so many Sweet Chestnuts on branches. They must be falling down to the ground by now and ready to eat.
While looking around in the park at the little details, I noticed something camouflaging so well in big trees.
Officially it is Autumn now. In the UK the clock has been set back to Winter Time so that morning starts in darkness and the Sun sets very early. The weather has been becoming more and more wet and miserable. On the contrary in Japan Autumn is described as for 1. Sport, 2. Appetite, 3. Arts, 4. Reading Books and then 5. Great Autumn Colour and more!
The reason that “Autumn is for Appetite” is simply because there are so many tasty food that become available during this season. They are Mushrooms (including super Mushroom ‘Matsutake‘), Fruits (such as ‘Kaki’ Persimmon), Sweet Potatoes, Ginkgo Nuts and so on …
However, the delicacy we enjoy the most of all is ‘Kuri’ – Sweet Chestnut. Everybody loves Sweet Chestnut in Japan. I have to say that it is almost like “Kuri = Autumn” for Japanese. We make lots of sweet with Kuri Chestnut and we cook even rice with it.
So inevitably I chose Sweet Chestnut as the material for the sweet of November.
Kuri – Mochi Sweet Chestnut
There is a recipe of ‘Yaki-Mnju (焼きまんじゅう) / Baked Manju’ I normally use. That is a Japanese Sweet wrapped with biscuit. It is good. I like it. It is also something that Western people are quite familiar with.
We have a Japanese sweet called ‘Kuri-Manju (栗まんじゅう)’. That is a ‘Yaki-Manju’ with Chestnut ‘Kuri‘ pieces inside and made into a Chestnut shape. The skin of this sweet is slightly different from Western biscuit. It is much smoother and you can make it into some shapes.
This time I made ‘Yaki-Manju’ in the traditional way. I tried making some shapes with different filling.
This one is ‘Kuri-Manju‘ with Chestnuts ‘Kuri’.
Does it look like Chestnut to you?
Instead of using small pieces, I mixed Chestnut in syrup mixing with ‘Shiro-An (白あん)’ and that made the filling looks like a paste.
What is ‘Autumn’ for you?
Autumn in Japanese is ‘Aki‘ and written as ‘秋‘. The character is made from two parts. The left part shows what it is connected to and in this case ‘禾 (Nogi-hen)’ means the character is something to do with ‘Crop’. The right part is ‘火 (Hi)’ which means ‘Fire’. So by combining two parts together the character means ‘Drying Crop (by Fire)’. Japan has a culture of growing rice plants for many many years and we harvest it in Autumn. Traditionally we dried cut plants by hanging it in the field for weeks before threshing grains so it does make sense that Autumn is the time for ‘Drying Crop’ before a cold winter comes.
In Japan Autumn is described in several ways. We say Autumn is for Harvesting. Autumn is for Reading Books, Autumn is for Arts & Excercise. However, the most important thing about Autumn and we should never ever forget is that Autumn is for ‘Taste’ and ‘Appetite’.
The Taste of Autumn – ’Matsutake’ mushroom and ‘Kuri’ chestnuts