It’s Spring equinox today and we had solar eclipse this morning in the UK, and it’s super moon tonight. What a day to celebrate the start of Spring.
I had an opportunity to make some traditional Japanese cakes (WAGASHI), for Japanese spring festival early this month. Some Japanese people living in North West of Northern Ireland organised an event which celebrated HINAMATSURI (Japanese doll festival on 3rd March) and coming Spring. I made three spring themed WAGASHI for them to sample.
Those pictures are from the event.
From left: KOUBAI (direct transtation will be ‘red plum’), KIMISHIGURE (‘egg yolk drizzle/rain’), SAKURA MOCHI (‘cherry leaf dumping’)
I had a post about SAKURA-MOCHI here last year, as this is very popular spring sweets in Japan.
The other two are less known, but also quite traditional.
KIMISHIGURE (黄身時雨）is steamed bun made with white bean paste with egg yolk. SHIGURE means drizzle or shower, and the name came from characteristic cracks on the top, as it looks like the sky when rain is passing by.
The natural yellow of yolks and slight hint of green from MACHA underneath symbolize the start of Spring. Inside colour doesn’t have to be green, I have seen the one with pink colour peeking through.
Inside is smooth AZUKI paste, and green tea bean paste on top. It’s very gentle sort of cake, sweet and crumbly. It crumble and melt in your mouth.
KOUBAI (紅梅）means red plum, but actually these names doesn’t really mean anything. It’s one of NERIKIRI (練りきり) cakes, and NERIKIRI can be formed in any shape or colour like modelling clay. So, you might find similar thing called in different names, like SAKURA (cherry blossom), KANBAI (winter plum), ICHOU (ginko leaf) etc…
NERIKIRI is a paste made of sweet white bean paste and sweet dumpling called GYUUHI (which is made of starch and sugar), and it is one of traditional cake in Japan.
We rarely eat those at home, but it is popular choice if you are having tea ceremony or other traditional celebrations.
NERIKIRI usually have sweet AZUKI bean paste or white bean paste inside. This time, I put KIMI-ANN, egg yolk white bean paste.
The shape and colour can be changed to fit for an occasion. Seasonality is very important. For example, plum is for late winter to early Spring thing, I just get away with plum in early March, but strictly speaking, it might be even too late to be serving plum shape cakes after the end of February.
All those cakes are great with a cup of green tea.
(Do make sure you drink green tea without sugar or milk or lemon! Although we often have a slice of lemon with black tea, normal British tea, in Japan, we never have lemon with green tea.)
Those traditional Japanese cakes are called WAGASHI, and sold at WAGASHI-YA in Japan. It’s strange but I don’t think I would have made any of those if I lived in Japan. I’ve started to make them only because there isn’t any shops selling them here. I had to buy some ingredients from Japanese on-line shop, but it is great that I can make and eat those traditional cakes in Belfast.
Have a nice Spring equinox!