Washoku, or Japanese cuisine is classified as UNESCO's world heritage, and pasteries form at times an integral part of it. Here are 5 most popular pasteries in Japan.
Manju is a bun staffed with Anko, a red bean paste. Red bean, called Azuki in Japanese is the most popular ingredient of Japanese pasetery. It is boiled in hot water, smashed and mixed with sugar before it is used as main ingredient in many Japanese pasteries.
Manju is a typical example of this combination of pancake like cover and Anko. It is soft and delicious when taken with a green tea. A common pastery for a tea ceremony.
Dango is a soft and sticky rice cake seasoned and squered in a bamboo stick. It is one of the most popular among the many kinds of Japanese pasetries. Hanayori dango, literaly meaning, Dango first than cherry blossomo viewing, is a famous proverbe in Japan to prove the popularity of this pasetry. Seasoning differs from sweetened soy sauce, covered with Nori or seaweed, Anko or sweet red bean paste. It is served often after being baked to add more flavor.
Senbei is a rice cracker. Together with Dango, it forms a pair of most popular Japanese pasteries. Rice cake is used as a main ingredient, formed flat in round shape before being charcoal baked. Flavor varies such as soy sauce, grated sesames, sugars etc.
At a local farmhouse, it is a must-keep pastery for an old lady who socialize with her neighbours having Senbei together with cups of green tea. You will have a good chance of being asked to stop and join their conversation when passing a rural village in Japan.
Tai, a red snapper, yaki, a word for broiled in Japanese, is a famous street pastery in Japan. As it sounds, it is in a shape of a fish. But please don't call this as fish cake, because it means a different ingredient for Japanese cuisine. It is a criply broiled pancake staffed with Anko, red bean paset.
It is very popular as street food, and never appears at a formal occasion such as tea ceremony. There are 3 most famous Taiyaki stores of Tokyo, where people make long queus in front of the store.
Yokan is a jelly cake made from Anko. This is a very popular pastery in Japan, but not so often eaten as the other four, because of several reasons.
First, it is basically sugar that adds taste to red bean, and because it is deeply simmered before being put in a form of Yoka, it looses its original flavor of red bean. So, simple taste of sweetness is something unique than other four.
Second, it more expensive than the others. Each shop claims its originality and long standing tradition, does not pay much attention (in my personal opinion) for the price.
Third, it requires some work before being served. It needs to be cut in recutangular form and put on a small plate in a very neat manner, whereas others can be eaten even while walking.
Despite all of this, Yokan is considered to be the most authentic Japanese pasteries, some of this family being used for tea ceremonies for its delicacy and beauty.
If you are interested to taste all or some of these pasteries, please refer to my tour, Half day private Tour of Off-the-beaten-Paths in Tokyo.
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