Two weeks ago I hold a ‘Wagashi’ Japanese Sweet Making Workshop. It was at a Tea specialty shop in Soho London and the workshop was combined with a Japanese Tea tasting session. This time we had six participants and they were composed of two friends with a daughter, a couple and a French lady. They all had been to Japan or lived there before so everyone knew what we were going to create so I could start the class very smoothly.
Wagashi Making Workshop (03/2018)
These are the Wagashi sweets I planned to make together with the participants.
Now officially it is spring in the UK. Which means Sakura season has started. Sakura is a Japanese word for Cherry tree and also Cherry Blossom. People in Japan love Cherry blossoms and go crazy when this season starts or even before when the season comes nearer. I mentioned about our tradition in Sakura season three years ago on this blog so if you are interested about the custom please read my old post.
As well as our traditional Cherry Blossom viewing ‘Hanami’ we like to eat all sorts of food which is in flavour or shape of Sakura blossom. There are many ways to produce Sakura related sweets and I will try making several different types in this season.
Sakura sweet in Japanese Crêpe style (with recipe)
This is a baked type Sakura sweet in crêpe style.
It was ‘Hinamatsuri’ the Girl’s Day yesterday. I have mentioned about the Japanese culture of praying for the good health and happiness of girls on the 3rd of March on my previous post. We decorate our home with Hina Dolls of Emperor and Empress as well as some other figures on red carpeted shelves, that are between five to seven shelves (or even more) traditionally. I created some sweets in shapes of the dolls in the past. On this day we don’t just decorate but also eat a sweet called ‘Hishimochi’ which means diamond-shaped Mochi which I also have created it once before.
There is one sweet that people particularly in the Kyoto area eat for the Girl’s Day but I was not familiar with it until recently. The sweets are called ‘Hichigiri’. I heard that this sweet was born in the palace in the old time in probably the Heian period. People needed to make many Mochi to serve so many guests that they were too busy to roll up each Mochi piece into a ball shape. Then they just pulled small pieces and left the pulled shape as it was. If you understand ‘Kanji’ (Chinese) character you know Hichigiri (引千切) means literally ‘pull and cut into a thousand’. I could imagine that the Palace kitchen was so busy.😆
So this year I tried creating these sweets for Hinamatsuri.
We are in March now and going to have one of the Japanese customs tomorrow on the 3rd of March. It is Girl’s Day called ‘Hinamatsuri’ and we pray for the health and happiness of girls by decorating special Hina Dolls in our houses on the day. This day is also called ‘Momo no Sekku’ which means Peach Festival and we place peach flower in a room or eat peach fruit or peach flower shaped sweets. I have created some sweets in a shape of Hina dolls in the past but I made a simple dessert for the coming event this year.
Momo-Mochi Matcha Zenzai
I created ‘Momo’ (Peach) flower shape in a bowl and had it with Matcha tea in ‘Zenzai’ style. Zenzai is a sweet soup type dessert that we normally make with sweet Azuki (Red) bean paste during a cold season. I created this Matcha version to make it suitable for spring. It is very easy to make at home so I am going to share how to prepare this dessert.
This Sunday Sakura Junction will be having a stall in a small Christmas Market in North London. The special thing about this Jolly Hobbies Market is that many stall holders are Japanese or the stuff sold there will be something related to Japanese culture. Hence, it’s Japanese Christmas Market! The number of visitors is definitely increasing every year. This year’s event was notified on Time Out recently so I believe we are going to have very many people.
I have been a part of this event for 7 years now. The products I have dealt with have changed slightly but I always stick to one thing ‘Wagashi’ Japanese sweets. This year I am preparing two types of food. One of them is of course my speciality Wagashi and the other type is ‘Gyoza’ Dumpling cooked on site. As I mentioned on my previous post this year’s Gyoza comes in two flavours. One is for vegetarians and the other one is Turkey meat with Christmas seasoning. I tried tasting at home and it worked very well! So I hope everybody likes it on the day.
I have only two more days to prepare but actually I haven’t decided all the Japanese sweet products selection yet. I have been providing two seasonal sweets for a Kimono shop’s Matcha Bar every month for the last three years so I would like to pick some of the sweets that had received great feedback from their paying customers. A few sweets definitely on my list are Sweet Rose, Apples, Mochi Mont Blanc and Matcha Swirl Mochi so far. Purple Sweet Potato Mochi might be chosen too. I am also going to take one brand new very seasonal sweet I just created with very Christmassy decoration.
This post became a much delayed report but last month I had an opportunity to hold another ‘Wagashi’ Japanese Sweet Making Workshop in London. This time it was at the very posh lovely Tea speciality shop My Cup of Tea which is located near Piccadilly Circus. Maybe because it was a weekday and also in the early evening we had two male enthusiasts amongst female participants. It is great to see many people from both gender getting to know about Japanese sweets culture and being interested in even making them.
Wagashi Making Workshop in London October 2018
The theme of the sweets we made in the Workshop was Flowers. I planned to make three sweets that are visually pretty but not too complicated to produce for beginners. After a short introduction the workshop commenced.
At the end of June a place called Japan House opened up in the West part of London. I only knew its name and I didn’t know anything about it. So, one week after the grand opening I visited the place without any expectation. With their own introduction Japan House “is a project which aims to nurture a deeper understanding and appreciation of Japan in the international community, by creating a number of hubs from which to showcase and communicate Japan as a country of countless charms, able to enrich the rest of the world”.
From the entrance the ground floor level is spaced for the display of many different types of items such as a Bonsai plant, books, arty figures, unusual looking teapots and rubbish bin and then one particular thing on the window sill attracted my attention. It is a wooden object that comes with two parts as a set. One side has some carving on it and the other side has a hole. I wonder if anybody knows what this is.
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.
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.
By imagining the sight of Tanabata Bamboo I created this sweet for July.
I thought it was just yesterday that I had introduced sixteen of Japanese sweets I had made in 2016. Today, the 16th of June, is another ‘Wagashi’ (Japanese Sweet) Day that people place sixteen sweets as an offering to the God and wish for good health and happiness. I am not going to explain about the custom this year so if you are interested to know about the Wagashi Day, please read my post last year.
Since the Wagashi Day in last year a lot of unfortunate sad incidents have happened in the world. I just really wish we will have a safer and happier world by the Wagashi Day next year.
These are the sixteen Japanese sweets out of all the sweets I made in year 2017.
Have a Happy 🍡 Wagashi Day!!
Last Sunday I had an opportunity to hold a ‘Wagashi’ Japanese Sweet Making Workshop. The venue of the event was Wasoukan, the Kimono shop located in Notting Hill, South West London. I had been thinking to do this kind of activity for many years and the chance had come to me at the end of May. Because it was decided so suddenly that I had only just a little more than one week to notify and gather people to attend. Despite the short notice, many people made enquiries, ending up with the right number of participants for the day.