Make and Eat Traditional Sweets in Kyoto
Yatsuhashi are one of the most popular traditional sweets sold in Kyoto. They come in two varieties: a crispy baked version, or a soft, sweet-bean-paste filled steamed version known as ‘nama’ (raw or unbaked) yatsuhashi. Both taste great, but as I discovered recently, nama-yatsuhashi also very easy to make.
National bus company, Willer Express, has started offering a nama-yatsuhashi making lesson as part of a new series of food-related trips called Nippon Travel Restaurant. Although I’m usually a little clueless in the kitchen, I love to get hands-on with sweets, and yes, even I was able to make three tasty nama-yatsuhashi successfully. Here’s how simple it is to make them:
Prepare the dough. Mix rice flour, sugar and cinnamon into a paste with water, and pour the paste into a small burner. The will burner steam the dough. After about 10 minutes it’s ready to come out - handle it very carefully! Cut it into three equal pieces to cool.
Mix the flavour. We had three different flavour types, cinnamon, chocolate and strawberry. Prod a small indent in the dough and add a dab of flavour, and then squish the dough roughly in your hands until it becomes thoroughly mixed in.
Roll out the dough. Sprinkle kinako powder on the surface and the rolling pin to make sure it doesn’t stick. Roll the pin in all directions until you have a wide thin circle of dough. Cut off the edges to make it into a square. Then eat the spare pieces, because they’re yummy.
Add sweet bean paste and fold. Put a generous dollop of sweet bean paste in the middle. Fold the square into a traditional triangle shape. But get creative! You don’t have to only make triangle shapes. I made a cherry blossom version, but a circle, heart or anything else will contain the sweet bean paste just as well. Layer the finished yatsuhashi in a cute maiko-designed box, and they’re all ready to go.
The lesson I went to was held at a popular yatsuhashi store in Kyoto, called Yastuhashian Kakehashi. The lesson is held in Japanese only, but it was very easy to follow the steps, as the staff are helpful and others around you are making them too. The course takes around 30 minutes, and after that you can wander around the shop and sample or buy some other varieties. It’s an easy and fun way to experience these traditional Kyoto sweets.
The Willer Express class is 1,080 yen per person, and you can reserve it easily in English through their website. Note that travel to and from the class isn’t included, and for this class there are two possible locations, but the location I went to was very easy to find from Hankyu Nishikyogoku station.
Nama-yatsuhashi making is just one of many food-related classes and experiences on Willer Express’s new Nippon Travel Restaurant page, so if you’re not so keen on sweet bean paste, there’s also gelato, wagashi, bread, sushi and okonomiyaki-making courses to try.