Handmade Springtime Sweets: Experiencing Wagashi Cooking
What is Wagashi?
Wagashi (Japanese confectionery, wa means Japanese and gashi (kashi) means sweets) is a typical traditional Japanese sweets, and it is said that most of wagashi were created in the Edo period. Wagashi has a variety of shapes and kinds instead of being a standard good because each wagashi is made by hand, reflecting a person's creativity and imagination.
In spring, you will see some wagashi that look like cherry blossoms or strawberries in department stores. By enjoying seasonal motifs even with your eyes, you would feel as if spring was coming.
Wagashi Cooking Experience
Recently I had an opportunity to go to a wagashi cooking class in Tokyo (unluckily, this time was only looking, not hands-on experiencing.) In the class, there were about 10 students, and each student looked like he/she was enjoying the hands-on cooking experience, listening to teacher's lecture. On that day, they were making nerikiri, which is one kind of wagashi. It is a raw sweet that mainly use nerikiri-an by adding some sugar, a yam, rice flour to white bean jam.
After I arrived at the class room, I found some colorful ingredients were already prepared on the table. To make wagashi, you will use your own hands. If your hands are too dry or wet, it would be difficult to create a beautiful shape. So a wet hand-towel was also prepared. On that day, they were going to make a "tulip" wagashi.
First, they started practicing. To make a beautiful wagashi, you have to be very good at using your own hands. Not only your fingers but also your arms you should use very smoothly. In fact, it's more difficult than you might think. If you touch to lift a product only with your fingers, your finger prints will remain on it. So, to make a beautiful one, you should touch the product as little as possible.
Sometimes, you will have to use some cooking tools. For example, a spatula was used when you want wagashi to have a more 3D look. Students used a spatula to make tulips' petals more swelling. They also used a bamboo skewer to mark on petals of tulip.
After hands-on practicing, now it's time to create your own wagashi. Pink, yellow and green - you can make such colorful tulips by yourself. Students were chatting together, comparing each other's tulips.
Eat the wagashi?
Lastly, you can eat the wagashi you made! The wagashi looked so cute, so some students didn't want to eat them. However, wagashi is not only enjoyably beautiful to look at, but also extremely tasty. Why not try to discover the taste of tulip for yourself?
In Japan, many wagashi shops open cooking class for not only Japanese people but also foreign visitors, mostly in Tokyo and Kyoto. If you are interested in cooking or if you like Japanese confectioneries, to join the wagashi cooking class would be a perfect way to learn more about Japanese sweet making culture.