Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Non-September Wagashi

During a recent interview with professional wagashi-maker Marybeth Welch, I learned a lot about wagashi, which are Japanese sweets used in tea ceremonies. Wagashi are usually made for specific seasons. Aside from the fact that most are extremely perishable, they tend to use stylized icons to represent the upcoming season. Sometimes, they also use seasonal ingredients, like sweet chestnut. The September wagashi I posted about on Monday were a classic version of the namagashi (40% water) style of wagashi in that they were made with only rice paste, sugar and red beans (azuki, ground into a paste in this case, but sometimes left with whole beans intact). Another popular type of namagashi is yokan, which is sometimes (rather incorrectly) referred to as a "jelly" candy. It's much denser than a jelly, and it's more shelf-stable than other types of namagashi. Here's an ACTUAL jelly candy, which is made with kanten (or agar agar, a sort of vegetarian gelatin):

Cute!!! Each element of the flower basket was a separate piece of candy. It's a type of hanamagashi, which are similar to namagashi, but are dryer (20-30% water) and more shelf-stable.

The last main type of traditional wagashi is higashi, or dry sweets (10% water). They keep much longer than other types, and most are pressed or spun sugar, like this:

(Please note: The remainder of this post is information I found on my own, so blame me and not Marybeth if anything is wrong!)

In Kyoto, there are local wagashi called kyogashi. Here are two from famed wagashi-maker Suetomi:

There are lots of other types of Japanese sweets that may be influenced by other cultures or just less traditional. They're often called kashi, which just means "sweets." Here's one of hard candy kashi:

See the guy with the glasses pictured in the candy? He looks like my boyfriend! (Kerry, if you're reading this, don't you agree?)

I'm looking forward to learning more about wagashi through Urasenke Chanoyu in the future. For now I'm still practicing my bowing, cloth folding and other basics. :)

1 comment:

Steph said...

Thank you for this educational post! And I have enjoyed the wagashi you shared with me!