Wa-gashi is the term for Japanese sweets. There are several kinds of wa-gashi to choose from, but these varieties have some common ingredients:
azuki beans or anko (sweet red beans)
The beans, in paste form, usually make up the fillings for cakes and buns.
The sweetness of most kinds of wa-gashi compliments the bitter taste of green tea and are best served with it.
SOME KINDS OF WA-GASHI
Anmitsu is a cold dessert made up of jelly cubes, azuki bean paste or anko, boiled beans, and fruit slices, served with a small pot of black syrup which is poured into the dessert before eating.
The jelly is called agar, and it is made from seaweed. The fruit slices may vary, depending on which fruits are available during the season, but slices of melon, pineapple, strawberries, and canned fruits are commonly used. The black syrup is called mitsu.
Anmitsu has some variations:
Mitsumame (Anmitsu without bean paste.)
Cream anmitsu (Anmitsu served with ice cream on top.)
Anmitsu served with nata de coco or shiratama dango (Dango is a sticky Japanese dumpling made from rice flour.)
Anpan is a sweet bun with red bean paste filling. Some types of anpan are:
Ogura (Anpan with red bean jam)
Sakura (Anpan with pickled cherry blossoms on tops)
Kuri (Anpan with chestnut jam, which was boiled with sugar and has been flavored with butter and liquor)
Shiroan (Anpan with a combination of white bean jam filling and white sesame)
Keshi (Anpan sprinkled with poppy seeds)
Uguisu (Anpan with a combination of green pea jam and sakadane dough)
Cheese Cream (Anpan with a combination of custard cream and cream cheese)
Castella originated from Portugal and is known to the Japanese as Kasutera. It is a sponge cake
made of sugar, flour, eggs, and starch syrup, and can be molded into various shapes. It is quite popular as a street food in Japan, especially during festivals.
A variation of castella involves using powdered green tea instead of flour, brown sugar instead of white sugar, and honey instead of starch syrup.
Kasutera made into pancake-like patties and filled with sweet red bean paste is called Dorayaki, another Japanese sweet.
FRIED ICE CREAM
Fried ice cream is commonly found in Mexican food chains in the United States. A scoop of deep-frozen ice cream is dipped in egg batter, rolled in corn flakes or cookie crumbs, then briefly deep-fried. It is then served with cinnamon or sugar sprinkles.
In Japan, this dessert has become popular, except that the recipe is closer to home. Instead of dipping the ice cream in egg and cereal or crumbs, it is dipped in tempura batter – the batter being made up of cold water, flour, and egg yolks.
GREEN TEA ICE CREAM
Green tea iced cream is also called matcha (or maccha) ice cream in Japanese. Matcha refers to a specific type of green tea used in Japanese tea ceremony. This green-colored ice cream is very popular in Japan. Sometimes it is served sandwiched between two crisp wafers.
Higashi is a mixture of glutinous rice flour and wasambonto. Wasambonto is one of the oldest domestic hand-refined sugar. The mixture is pressed into molds of various shapes to form dry sweets. Sometimes, sugar and starch are combined and used instead of wasambonto.
Kakigori is shaved ice poured with flavored syrup. There are several flavors with different colors to choose from. Strawberry, green tea, and melon are among the popular ones. Kakigori poured with two or more flavors of different colors is called rainbow. Condensed milk may be used to sweeten kakigori.
Manju is a steamed bun filled with bean paste. The bun is made up of joyo (yam) dough.
Melonpan is a soft, round, sweet bread. It is also called melon buns, and it resembles a melon, although the flavor is usually not melon. Sometimes though, melon essence is used to enhance the bread’s aroma.
Monaka is made up of two pieces of thin wafers with azuki bean filling in between. The wafers are made from sticky rice, and may be shaped like cherry blossoms or chrysanthemums.
Taiyaki is cake filled with azuki bean paste, custard, or any other filling, fried, and molded into the shape of a fish.
Yokan is a sweet jelly made up of azuki bean paste, sugar, and kanten. Kanten is gelatin made from sun-dried seaweed. it is high in fiber.
Most of these kinds of wa-gashi have much lower calories compared to yo-gashi (Western-style sweets) since they rarely use milk and butter. They have lower fat content and their common ingredients – the beans, gelatin, and yams – are rich in fiber and vegetable protein, so they are generally much healthier than a typical yo-gashi. Served with green tea, wa-gashi is a perfect ending to a nice meal.