One Door Closes and Another One Opens

We have just stood at the beginning of the year 2019. Everything starts from a beginning and the things have an end.

The Beginning

I have been making ‘Wagashi’ Japanese sweets in London for several years now and particularly in the last three years my sweets were served to paying customers. It was at the ‘Matcha’ Bar of a Kimono shop, Wasoukan, that was located in Notting Hill. It all started three years ago when I entered a ‘Sake’ Cooking competition and won second prize. At the same time Wasoukan was looking for someone who would provide Japanese sweets for them and the manager of the shop at that time heard about me and my Wagashi making skill from the organizer of the cooking competition. They contacted me soon and the following month and since then I had been supplying two types of seasonal Japanese sweets to Wasoukan every month.

and The Ending

Now nearly three years have past since then. Although Wasoukan has been doing well and especially gained many loving customers, they decided to close their London branch and the last December was their last month. It was very sad news for me, not because from my business point of view but it was because I really liked the shop and all the staff who were working there. They seemed to get on very well together. During this three year period of my serving sweets to them I have met many of their customers and I can tell that they all loved the shop. Everybody was so sadden by this closing news and wonder where they would get good Matcha tea from in London after the shop is gone.

So one evening before the shop was closed some of the present and ex-staff of the shop as well as their great customers gathered to hold a surprise farewell party for the manager who was going back to Japan.

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Poinsettia

B9330269811Z.1_20171118101738_000_G4BKBEKRJ.1-0It is the final month of the year and only one week’s left before a brand new year starts. It means the biggest event for most of the families in the UK is coming soon. It is of course Christmas! There are many things that relate to Christmas and one of them which is quite significant is a plant called Poinsettia. Poinsettia is originally for a warmer place but maybe because of its bold colour combination of vivid red and deep green it makes the most Christmassy looking decoration in your house.

Poinsettia

This is one of my ‘Wagashi’ Japanese sweets for December.

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Mochi ‘Jack-O’-Lantern’🎃

PumpkinsWhat is the most significant thing /character for Halloween? When you go shopping to a grocery shop or even your usual supermarket, you see many pumpkins piled up in a box. They are for carving into lanterns. I always think it is such a waste if they are just used as lanterns and not to be eaten. Once I was given a big orange pumpkin and I tried cook it instead of carving a scary face on the surface, but I failed, miserably. It was very watery, spongy and tasteless and how ever you cooked, it was unedible!

So my answer for the question I made at the beginning is Jack-O’-Lantern for me! It must be. You see pumpkins everywhere during this season. I made Jack-O’-Lantern Japanese sweet two years ago with Japanese sweet ‘Nerikiri’. It is a material which is very suitable to create a shape and pattern on the surface. This year I made it again, however, the material I used was ‘Mochi’. I wasn’t sure if I could make the detailed look of Jack-O’-Lantern with such a gooey and bumpy material but I tried it anyway.

Mochi Jack-O’-Lantern

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Cream Matcha Mochi

As Autumn gets gradually deepen I always feel like having strong Matcha Green Tea. It may be because it is quite a special season for many Japanese as it is the season of Autumn colour and that reminds us of a scenary in Kyoto, our old capital town that looks great in red and yellow fallen leaves.

Matcha is quite bitter tea so you have to have some sweet before sipping the tea. However, this Autumn I made sweet with Matcha powder instead of drinking Matcha Tea. I used plenty of Tea powdermixed in to a Mochi layer and I also dusted the outside of the sweet with lots of Matcha powder. My Mochi became so green and when you see the round shape covered with this beautiful green, it looks as if it is a stone covered with moss in a Japanese garden in Kyoto.

Cream Matcha Mochi

It is a sweet that has a soft Mochi layer wrapping up whipped fresh cream with Sweet Azuki Bean Paste inside. The outer Mochi layer itself is made with lots of Matcha powder but I finished it up with plenty of Matcha powder dusted around of the Mochi.

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Tanabata Bamboo on the 7th of July

Tomorrow, the 7th of July, is a day called ‘Tanabata’ Day in Japan. It is not a national holiday but we have events and festivals on that day all over Japan. It is based on an old story that a young couple (stars) who fell in love with each other far too much and neglected their work made the God got very angry. The God decided to make them live separately on each side of the river (the Milky Way), however, seeing that how sad they became, he felt sorry for them and gave them permission to cross over the Milky Way once a year on the night of the 7th of July if the weather is good and the sky is clear. I posted this story in more detail two years ago so if you are interested to know please visit the post.

1280px-___(19545533256)This is the story that happens in the sky above us, so what can we do down on the earth? We wish it’s going to be a clear sky on the day so that the couple will see each other. As the gesture that we are wishing for their happy meeting we put a bamboo outside our houses and write our wish on a piece of colourful rectangular paper called ‘Tanzaku’ and hang it on the bamboo. Around this time of last year I was working with a British retailer in London. He placed a bamboo outside his shop and asked his customers and passer-by to write their wish and hang the Tanzaku on his bamboo. Amazingly to me it was a huge hit. All people loved the idea and enjoyed the sight of it so much.

Tanabata Bamboo

By imagining the sight of Tanabata Bamboo I created this sweet for July.

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Matcha Hot Cross Anpan

During the Easter Holiday I make Hot Cross Buns almost every year. I like the spices and dried fruits inside the buns and of course plenty of clotted cream on the halved and slightly toasted buns too. However, this year I wanted to make something a little different. Something a little more Japanese … so, I decided to add a Japanese ingredient into buns.

Western people might think that Japanese are eating rice all the time but actually we love bread. In Japan we have all sorts of bread from savoury to sweet. One of the Japanese favourite sweet bread is Anpan which is a bun filled with ‘An‘ (Sweet Azuki Bean Paste) in the centre. I decided making this Japanese nation’s favourite buns for this Easter by mixing with one of the most famous Japanese flavour ‘Matcha’ Green tea.

Matcha Hot Cross Anpan

As this was for the Easter I made a cross on top and call it Matcha Hot Cross Anpan!! It went fairly well, apart from  … it’s overbaked. The batteries for my timer ran out so I did not time the baking. I distructed using the computer and forgot about the baking. It turned out that the top became too dark and hard to see the cross. It also dried up a little and the Sweet Bean Paste is not as moist as it should be.

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Matcha Swirl Mochi for Early Spring

Comparing to the snowy weather three weeks ago it is so much more like spring now. It is not just because the temperature is higher but because the sunlight is brighter and the air is lighter. Although the forecast says there is a possibility that this weekend might become cold again, the season always moves forward by going back and forth a little. It means we are definitely getting closer to spring!

It means we are in Early Spring now. I quite often design sweets depending on which season we are in. I pick some significant signs of the season such as colour, flower or mood of the season. So what is early spring like for me? It is the season some leaves start to come out (Green) on a tree and field, but in some area it is still covered with snow (white). It is a little too early to see a view of full Sakura cherry blossom in the most places, however, but in some warmer area some trees probably starts blossoming (Pink). The smell of early spring is a grassy green smell. So what I have to do after running my imagination is put all these images together.

Matcha Swirl Mochi

I needed to assemble all the elements of green, white and pink together. I was imagining a mountain in early spring. For autumn season I made Autumn Mountain Mochi and reached up to this swirling sweet of early spring version of the mountain.

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