Wagashi is a Japanese traditional sweet that is enjoyed typically with green tea in combination. Wagashi translates as Japanese snacks or Japanese sweets. It was coined in the Meiji period to differentiate it after the isolationist period in Japan so that they were different from European sweets.
Why is Wagashi distinct?
Wagashi often is categorized as dry or fresh, and not based on the ingredient or shape. There are three types of this Japanese Wagashi sweet featuring moisture. Wagashi is a broad term to describe traditional Japanese confections that is enjoyed with green tea. This sweet gained popularity during the Edo period in Japan ( 1603-1868). As the Japanese tea ceremonies started becoming common, the Japanese sweet became the right pair with a bitter tea. The dim sum and Chinese confections are some of the traditional Japanese snacks, while Wagashi became a unique celebration and expression to define Japanese culture.
Wagashi features intricate and beautiful designs making them work along with delicious treats. The flavors and designs of Wagashi vary based on season, region, or simply its own vision. One such example of wagashi is Yatsuhashi, a souvenir sweet, Miyagegashi, from Kyoto. Wagashi for the Japanese imperial family originated as small morsels and nobility to enjoy with bitter green tea, matcha. The treats evolved into edible art that is intricately crafted.
Wagashi are fashioned into different shapes such as fruit, flowers, and leaves. It also includes seasonal ingredients, like chestnuts in the fall, and springtime cherry blossom leaves. They use less sugar, give them refined flavor to pair with green tea. There are different Wagashi types to discover, such as:
It is a traditional favorite sweet for Japanese people in all ages, from elderly to small children. It is a dessert consisting of two small pancakes that has sweet azuki red bean paste in the filling. It is a preferred snack of Doraemon, the animated character. The name is acquired from its shape resembling a Japanese gong or dora. It was created in the early 1900s by a Tokyo dessert maker.
Monaka is a traditional sweet in Japan consisting of two airy and crisp wafers. It is made using sticky rice and is sandwiched around red bean sweet paste. The wafers are crafted typically in the flowers shape such as the chrysanthemum, cherry blossom, or plum blossom. The filling may include sweetened chestnuts or seasonal fruits.
Dango is made of sweet rice flour. It is made from rice made into a paste. It has a chewier texture. Wagashi is made of rice flour mixed to form a dough using hot water and shaped into dumplings. It is skewered, boiled, and grilled. It is a common addition to include sesame seeds to the rice flour and to produce nuttier-taste. Dango is irresistible or is drizzled in sweet soy and thick sauce.
Manju is a Wagashi pastry cake that features steamed dough filling with paste of sweet bean. Manju is given different shapes before steaming or baking. It is available as pointed chestnuts to round cakes. Some creative shapes include even small rabbits and maple leaves.
Yatsuhashi is a Kyota area traditional treat sold as a soft confectionery and toasted cracker. Yatsuhashi crackers are prepared with rice pounded into thin crepes and is toasted on hot plate, and is dusted with sugar and cinnamon. Soft yatsuhashi is prepared using the dough of rice flour flavored with cinnamon, sesame, and green tea, folded around sweetened red bean paste chunk. It is in a triangle shape and people love its doughy texture.
Mochi is a Japanese Wagashi type made using sticky rice and it is served as sweet or savory. The rice is glutinous and is pounded to become a paste. It is combined and molded into a shape using other ingredients. Mochi comes in a variety, such as sakura mocha, a rice cake covered in the leaf of salted cherry blossom, daifuku, a rice cake stuffed with red bean paste, and kusamochi, a rice cake featuring the mugwort flavor. Mocha is eaten on special days as a part of the New Year festive from the Heian period.