Posted by: ジャパンホッパーズ編集部(Japan Hoppers Editors) 18 Dec 2015 Sponsored

The appeal of Japanese sweets

The appeal of Japanese sweets © Chojuen

The history of Japanese sweets

A long time ago in Japan nuts and fruits were eaten as confectionaries. Moving along from the B.C. to the A.D. periods, rice and wheat were widely cultivated and then made into flour to be used for rice cakes and dumplings. In the 6th Century, in countries such as China, a variety of confectionaries were developed. After that time period, in the Middle Ages the tea ceremony was introduced, and this had a decisive influence on the development of Japanese sweets. Also, in the 16th Century, confectionary was brought to Japan from countries in central Europe such as Portugal, and Japan then created their own original arrangement of the sweets and a new style of sweets such as the “castella”(sponge cake) were born. When it became the Edo Period (1603-1868), due to the distribution of sugar, pastry making prospered, and the common people of the Edo Period were able to make many more confectionaries such as the plain and simple “Daifuku”(rice cake stuffed with bean jam), and in Kyoto elegant and refined confectionaries such as “Neri-kiri”(kneaded and cut confectionary).

“An”: The life of Japanese sweets

When it comes to Japanese sweets, the most essential ingredient is “An”. “An” is red beans that have been boiled with sugar, and then the grains are separated and then remaining paste is strained and formed into a shape. It then becomes the basis for making Japanese sweets, and can be wrapped in a rice cake or put inside a bun. Therefore it would not be an exaggeration to say that the taste of Japanese sweets is predominantly “An”.

The making of Chojuen’s Japanese sweets

Chojuen is a long-standing Japanese confectionary shop that is based in Nagoya, and sticks to the method of using “An” for their sweets. The shopkeeper of Chojuen maintains the strong belief that “making An by hand from red beans is the way of the Japanese sweets craftsman”. Because of the decrease of shops making homemade “An”, it has been gaining a lot of attention. Utilizing high-quality red beans, it takes time and effort to make “An”. It takes an entire day to boil the red beans, remove the skin, and then cook them along with sugar. Additionally, besides the “An”, other ingredients such as chestnuts are processed directly in the shop.

Recommended Japanese sweets

We will now introduce you to a popular Japanese sweet here at Chojuen. The Japanese sweet that uses buns made from the almost transparent looking “kuzu”(arrowroot powder), which blooms like a flower when put into water, are consequently named “Suichuka”(flower inside water). The “An” that is beautifully colored and resembles a flower is formed into a round shape and then wrapped inside the kuzu bun. Kuzu is a leguminous plant, and the starch is obtained by purifying the roots, drying them, and then turning them into a powder which eventually becomes the ingredient called “kuzu-ko”(arrowroot flour) that is used for making Japanese sweets. When “kuzu-ko” is heated up and beaten with water, it becomes clear and smooth, and this texture seems to melt in your mouth. The appearance is also refreshing and beautiful to look at, and it gives Japanese sweets a pleasant texture. By all means please relish the taste and texture of these sweets.

The appeal of Japanese sweets: Image Gallery

和菓子司 長寿園 / Chojuen

Japanese confectionery store in Nagoya, established in 1924.