When you think of Japanese cuisine you typically think of sushi. But, the Japanese cuisine has a sweet treasure most people don’t know about. If you go to a Japanese confectionery shop, you'll see several rows of colorful and carefully shaped wagashi (Japanese sweets and cakes) that look like works of art.
What’s so wonderful about these Japanese sweets and cakes is that they are very healthy, since their main ingredients are rice flour and beans. The beans, such as adzuki and white beans, are made into a sweet paste called an. This sweet and healthy bean paste is added of most traditional sweets and cakes.
Wagashi was developed alongside the Japanese tea ceremony, which became official in the sixteenth century. Most wagashi eaten today are said to have first been made in the Edo period (1603-1868).
- adzuki beans - 10 tablespoons
- sugar - 8 tablespoons (6 tablespoons if you prefer a paste that isn't as sweet
- pinch of salt
- pancake mix - 4 tablespoons
- milk - 4 tablespoons
1. Rinse the adzuki beans well, place in saucepan with lots of water (about three to four times the amount of beans), and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for four or five minutes. Drain the water away. Be careful not to scald yourself!
2. Return the beans to the pot and add lots of water again. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, skim off the scum (foam) that rises to the surface, and simmer. This part takes a while - between 40 minutes and an hour. Cook until the adzuki are nice and tender and you can easily mash one between two fingers. Be sure not to rush things here. If you don't cook the beans long enough, they won't taste good. (They'll taste raw.)
3. After the beans are tender, drain away any remaining liquid.
4. Add the sugar. The mixture will burn easily, so take care to stir constantly.
5. Once the bean mixture has thickened, add salt and cook over a low heat until the paste is firm and then set is aside. Try a spoonful. You'll like it!
6. Add milk to the pancake mix. Mix well. Lightly oil a frying pan. (You can do this with an oil-soaked paper towel.) Wipe off any excess oil.
7. Heat frying pan. Pour pancake batter into the pan to form two pancakes with a 10-centimeter diameter and two with a 3-centimeter diameter. The batter will spread itself easily on the pan, so take care not to pour too much.
8. Once the pancakes are cooked on both sides, place them on a cookie sheet or baking pan. Cut one of the small pancakes in half. Poke two holes in the other small pancake with a straw. This will be the nose.
9. Spread the bean paste on one of the large pancakes. Cover it with the other large pancake.
10. Make the face. Wedge the two small half-pancakes you cut between the large pancakes to make the ears. Use the small pancake with the two holes for the nose. Make two eyes out of the blueberries. If you don't have blueberries, you can use chocolate chips, raisins, or even jelly beans.
Bird-Shaped Mashed Sweet Potato
(The Japanese Sweet, which may also be referred to as a Japanese yam, an Oriental, Kotobuki, Satsuma Imo, or Satsumaimo, is a variety of potato that is common in Japan.)
- sweet potato - 7 ounces
- butter - 2 teaspoons
- sugar - 2 teaspoons
- condensed milk - 1 tablespoon
- one gardenia seed pod for coloring the mashed sweet potatoes yellow (optional)
- 1 almond
- 2 chocolate chips (raisins, currants, very small blueberries, seaweed, or small pieces of jelly beans can also be used)
1. Rinse the sweet potatoes, peel them, and slice them into 5-millimeter rounds. Let them soak in a bowl of water for two or three minutes.
2. Drain the sweet potatoes and place them in a saucepan filled with water and a gardenia nut for color. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat, and continue cooking.
3. Once the sweet potatoes are turn off the heat and drain away the liquid.
4. Mash the sweet potatoes. (Do this while they are hot.)
5. Mix in the butter, then the sugar, and finally the condensed milk.
6. Using a spoon, gently shape the mashed sweet potatoes into a circle on a plate.
7. Push the almond into the mashed sweet potatoes so that it sticks out to make a beak, and place the two chocolate chips above it for the eyes.
- Rice - 3 cups
- Water - 3 1/3 cup
- Rice vinegar - 4 tablespoons
- Sugar - 4 tablespoons
- Salt - 1 tablespoon
- Pinch of umami seasoning (a flavor enhancer)
- Put the vinegar, sugar, and salt into a pot and heat slightly until the sugar and salt are completely dissolved.
- Ham - 2 slices
- Green peas
- Plastic wrap
Stickers (when decorating sushi for young children)
1. Combine the water and rice in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes, or until rice is tender and water has been absorbed. Remove from the heat and stir in the vinegar and a pinch of salt. Set aside to cool.
2. Shape the rice into 50-g balls using plastic wrap.
3. For the Frog sushi, unwrap the rice, spread ham over it, add a slice of cucumber on top, and rewrap. Over the wrap, attach two yellow stickers with eyes drawn on them and a red sticker cut into the shape of a mouth, and the frog is done! You can further decorate the sushi with additional stickers.
4. For the Assorted Sticker sushi, cut the carrot, cucumber, and ham with a shape cutter. Place them on the rice, and then rewrap the rice. Attach stickers of your choice over the wrap.
5. For the Salmon Car sushi, add rice on top of the smoked salmon slice, wrap in plastic wrap, and fix the shape of the salmon. Attach the tire and wheel stickers over the wrap. Cut the sticky note into the shape of car windows and attach them as well.