Friday, March 12, 2010

Making Japanese sweets (wagashi) in Kanazawa

Maylee and I, proudly showing off our masterpieces!

Running out of time and there's still so much I want to do whilst living in Kanazawa. The longer I'm here the less daunting it all seems to be (i.e I'm even calling people up and speaking in my broken Japanese, something I never thought possible when I arrived a year ago!)

So one thing I had read about in the list of things to do in Kanazawa is to make wagashi (和菓子), a traditional Japanese confectionary which is often served with tea and is almost considered an art form.

Of course all the information about doing this is in Japanese so it's a bit of a challenge to work out where, how much and what its all about. So having made a wobbly reservation on the phone, we went down to the Ishikawa Gifts and Souvenir centre on Saturday with the hope that they had actually understood me on the phone and to my amazement they did!*

We were ushered into a big hall with long tables, the last group were finishing off and then it was our turn. Each of us had our own set of wagashi mix, utensils, a sieve and some wet tissues.

The head chef, a big bloke who I think must teach the classes on rotation all day, put on his mic and began his presentation. We could see everything he was doing as he must have had a mini TV camera attached to a huge screen, unfortunately we didn't understand what he was saying but this is practical so it doesn't matter, just copy everyone else!

We started off by making the easiest wagashi that looked like a pink sugar mouse. There are tons of different types of Japanese wagashi depending on the ingrediants and style but as I'm sat here at school not even my teachers know the proper name for this pink one! You take the wagashi mixture (which feels like a soft play dough, it is in fact rice flour mixed with water), flatten it and then place the azuki bean paste (same consistency) inside.

You then carefully mould the edges of the outer layer around the inner and make a ball. Then you roll it in your hands until it forms an egg shape. To finish it you make two cross marks across the top with your wagashi utensils, see my video!

We then moved onto the next one, a green one with a marble type effect that bunched together at the top.

It looked near impossible to make but was actually not too hard. The secret was in getting a damp handkerchief, wrapping the wagashi inside, twisting it hard and then finaly pinching it with 2 fingertips....

Et voila!

The last looked like something I used to produce from my mop top hair shop when I was young (god remember those?) This time the wagashi mix goes through the sieve provided, watch us doing it in video below!

After, you must pick up the wagashi shreds using only chopsticks and cover the inner ball of azuki. OK this was a bit tough as I have zero patience and it just doesn't stick that well.

Once you've picked every shred of wagashi mix your'e done! The waitresses then give you a cute little box (recycled I hope) for your 3 pieces of art form (and they include an extra wrapped one in there) Here are my final masterpieces ; )

I might even try to make my own daifuku (a type of wagashi which I just LOVE!) if I have time this weekend (a nice leaving present for my teachers)

At the Ishikawa Gifts and Souvenir centre you can also decorate traditional Japanese dolls as well as paint on glass.

The sweet making cost ¥1200 and is available from 10am to 1pm on weekends and national holidays only.
*To be honest I'm not sure a reservation is really needed as there weren't that many people there. Turn up and I'm sure they can fit you in.

Map is at (third picture down, there's also a map in English of how to get there)

Warning, don't scoff all your wagashi sweets in one. I did....

1 comment:

  1. Hey Jess, I have a question. Remember that geisha party you went to? At Ryotei Matsumura? I got a reservation for the next one this coming Saturday, but I don't know how to get there.... did you taxi it or take a bus or walk from the Kenrokuen area?