Wagashi / Japanese sweets
Have you ever had the Japanese sweets called Wagashi? Wagashi are traditional Japanese confections inspired by the four seasons and the landscape of Japan. They were originally created in the ancient Japanese capital Kyoto. The main ingredients of Wagashi are bean paste, made especially from Azuki beans. When I am practicing the Japanese tea ceremony, Wagashi take an important part in the ceremony. Before having a cup of matcha green tea, we normally have a seasonal Wagashi, which helps us to enjoy the bitter green tea. The host of the tea ceremony prepares seasonal flowers, sweets, cups and decorations so that we can enjoy the tea with all five senses.
As you can see from the pictures of wagashi, they are quite small, and not very sweet either. It is a very sophisticated taste and they look amazingly beautiful and arty. I am now collecting some old wagashi wooden moulds – each Wagashi shop inherited their own moulds over centuries, and the wagashi craftsman and mould makers worked together to create evolving ideas over the centuries too. There are still particular craftsmen, craftsmen with wonderful imagination, who are making wooden moulds for Wagashi in Japan. However, this skill is becoming very rare as Japanese people now have many more choices such as cakes and chocolates. However, I still believe that wagashi are the best match for matcha green tea.
As I drink several cups of green tea a day, I often fancy having a small sweet to go with it. At the same time, I do not want to have too much sugar either. So, some gently sweet, beautiful looking Wagashi are just perfect, and my real favourite. Another point is that a lot of Wagashi do not contain any gluten either, so they are a good option for a healthy diet, as well as being a good present for someone who needs gluten-free food. You can taste Wagashi in Piccadilly in London, where Minamoto Kitchoan serves many varieties of Wagashi. I go there after my visits to Royal Academy! http://www.kitchoan.com/