I love 桜餅 sakuramochi and eat them whenever I could find them or find time to make them. And it has mostly been the Kansai version where 道明寺粉 domyoji-ko is used. I love love love glutinous rice and enjoy practically everything that comes with it. So I always have a stash of domyoji-ko and pickled sakura leaves at home so that I can make them whenever a craving sets in. Oddly, I’d not made the Kanto version before despite enjoying them several times in Japan. So I guess its a good time to try!
I had been thinking…what was probably my first impression of Japanese food which I’d gotten to known when we were young? Was it sushi? Was it sashimi? Hmm,I don’t think so… Was it Katsudon or Oyakodon? I think I only got to know about these in my late teens. So what was it exactly?
I vividly remember 2 programmes that were shown when I was young, a time when NHK invaded our local TV. It was 阿信 Oshin for the adults, especially mothers and grandmothers who would pause amidst making family dinner and become all thoroughly absorbed into the life of the little Japanese girl in this Japanese drama epic, only to return to the stove and vegetables all teary. For us kids then, it must have been Doraemon, that big-headed blue creature which I only got to know as a cat very much later. Japanese popular culture seem to be particularly fond of cats, albeit somewhat physically challenged, since Doraemon is without ears and just when you thought that was weird, Hello Kitty doesn’t have a mouth. Jokes aside, Doraemon was so immensely popular at that time with every boy and girl was able to hum the theme song despite not knowing a word in Japanese. And of course with Doraemon, dorayaki became also widely known to us as a popular Japanese snack. But it was only until much later that we’d gotten to know what it tasted like!
The weather these few weeks has been so excruciatingly hot to the point of being unbearable. It is precisely times like these, that we celebrate and embrace the greatest invention of the 20th century, air-conditioning. Singapore knows no seasons. Its either hot, or hotter, and we can only lament that the cooler months left us too soon as we move into the warmer periods of the year. Alas the almost “spring-like” season during the December to March months was much welcomed, albeit a bit wetter than usual, but at least the heat was much more tolerable. How I wish we were off somewhere cooler. And thoughts like this made me reminiscent our trip to Japan last year. Snow in March, countless macarons and pastries, wagashi… all was but too memorable…
Our first encounter with traditional Japanese confections, better known as 和菓子 wagashi stems from a trip to the Kansai region last spring. These little sweets, often made of very simple ingredients like anko (red bean paste), sesame seeds, japanese candied chestnuts and glutinous or rice flour are delicately designed and crafted, often to reflect the changing seasons. We sampled an assortment of deletable wagashi in Osaka and Kyoto, from candied yuzu to 金糖 kinton-styled 菜の花 nanohana, but none left an impression as strong as 桜餅 Sakuramochi.
Day 5 in Japan is our 3rd day in Kyoto. Incidentally, its our last day here too. We love this city so much and lamented at the thought of not being able to stay here for another day. No wait, make that the rest of our lives! Its an ancient city yes but still so very much alive! The juxtaposition of the ancient and the new, the young and the old is all too dramatic and attractive for us. 3 days is really
barely NOT enough to see Kyoto and I often wonder how people do those “one day Kyoto stopovers” as they travel from Fukuoka to Tokyo via the JR line. I bet they leave the city with memories like… erm, Kyoto… what Kyoto?