Okay. I never play up my Japanese roots. I would be lying if I said I was sorry for I am not. I am too EFin impatient to explain anything that has to do with my culture to those unfamiliar. But it’s Christmas, holidays, whatever the PC (not hardware) term is, and I am in the spirit of giving. So for any and all that may be interested in giving something Japanese-y, I hope this will help. Be forewarned if you’re on a budget I would recommend closing this window. Hey – it’s not my fault my people’s stuff is pricey.
和菓子 (wagashi) is what we call them and they are a gourmet delicacy. The site has variations of confectionaries, but my recommendation is 練り切り(nerikiri), pictured right. From the ingredients, preparation, presentation, packaging, to the details, time, care, and attention that goes into these suckers, the pricing is a steal. Each tiny circle or square symbolizes something. Please don’t ask what they symbolize, since I have no clue. All I know is that everything is seasonal. From the patterns, colors, shapes, and sizes, there are rules to what can be made when. Since it is winter, there are wintery (?) shapes. How do they taste? Think smooth and velvety texture to the bite, and once it hits your mouth, a thin veil of sweetness floats through your mouth. Best served with authentic Japanese Green Tea 緑茶 (ryoku-cha) Seriously, these are my absolutely favorites. They were my mom’s favorites, and that is why they are first. Biased? HELL YES. It’s MY list afterall. Image via elaurant33’s flickr Minamoto Kitchoan’s site here.
Every Japanese person raised in a Japanese household will tell you that when these tins are out, there is a special guest either in the house or coming over. These, my dear non Japanese friends, are special EFin occasion cookies. OH yes. What’s so special about them? Well. These cookies? Every single one of them are simply: phenomenal. Those tins are full of light buttery goodness that won’t make you sick, even if you eat the entire thing in one sitting. Not that I’ve ever done that, but that’s how perfect the butter : sugar : flour ratio is. I like the entire assortment and my palate is extremely finicky*. My personal favorite is the pipe cookies. I like how the crumbles flitters through my entire mouth and the crunch is so light when I bite in. – sigh – YokuMoku’s hella outdated ugly ass website here. Do NOT be fooled by ugliness. Their Japanese site is a little better.
Toraya, too, has an assortment of Japanese confectionaries but kasutera ftw. Seriously. These honey based cakes may be the first Western-ish cake made in Japan, but to us (or perhaps it may only be me), kasutera is familiar and nostalgic. Think Japanese equivalent to apple pie. I would describe them more as… hmmm… a delicate pound cake with a hint of honey, not as heavy, buttery, and or dense. Kasutera can be served with green tea, Western teas, coffee, espresso, even with a port or dessert wine, if you wish. Totally universal, kastura seriously rules. Toraya’s English site is here.
In April 2007, I discovered Satura Cakes. They supposedly emulate true Japanese bakeries. Satura’s core team (executive chef, patisseries, management) are all Japanese. To be honest, I am not a fan of their cakes. Yes, they taste good, but way over priced. More and more American companies are stepping their cake games up, and Satura may use the freshest, best, ingredients, but there is nothing that makes them stick out from the crowd. Now the non perishables are a whoooooole ‘nother ball game. I am super duper extra fortunate to have consumed almost all of them (thank you, Acebutt), that I can say, with 220% confidence, a gift box filled with these treats will not disappoint. The marshmallows and butter cookies (green tea flavor in particular) are highly recommended. OMG I’m making myself hungry. (Couldn’t find a decent picture of the gift boxes so I stole the tiny one from their site.) Visit Satura Cakes here.
If you happen to be in the NYC area, Rosanjin is a pretty awesome concept. They are a high end caterer, and though freshness and immediate consumption is required, this is one of my number one recommendations. I am going to be lazy and just copy and paste my Yelp review: “Never been inside, but they have an INCREDIBLE catering menu with the most fabulous looking containers.
(the pictures speak for themselves)
Buy a few boxes, put them on a plate, throw a house party, and tell everyone you made everything.
People will be bowing at your feet.
Better yet, invite a guy/girl to your home and have an indoor sushi picnic.
99:1 chance one will fall in love, your favor.
If love’s not your thing, you will FOR SURE get laid.
-1 star cuz it’s so damn expensive
+4 stars for the day and age you can buy friends w/ good food, and this place will definitely make you the most popular kid on the block” Rosanjin’s site here.
Kind of the same concept as Rosanjin. Visit their site here.
And there you have it, folk. Yokku Mokku, Minamoto Kotchoan, and Toraya are Japanese staples, the latter three are not. Hope you enjoyed. :)
*finicky palate is not the same as picky, mind you. I have high expectations and standards. From single, tens, hundreds, to maybe thousands…? if XX is worth XX, I expect my money’s worth. And that is how it should be. So don’t think I go into White Castle for instance, and demand they change the oil before preparing my food. Sheesh.