Table of contents:
- Why is beauty, not taste, is the main thing in food for the Japanese?
- How sweets appeared in Japan
- Wagashi - real Japanese sweets
- Ancient sweets of Japan
- Amazing art of amezaiku
- Kompeito - other people's sweets that have become Japanese
Japan is an unusual country and its sweets are unusual. They are made from traditional products for the country. And yet, they are not very sweet, healthy, and most importantly, incredibly beautiful.
Why is beauty, not taste, is the main thing in food for the Japanese?
Isolation of Japan, remoteness from world civilization; harsh climate, the islanders have developed a habit of being content with little, appreciating every second of fleeting life. In the Japanese, severe asceticism, exactingness towards themselves, hard work, fanatical love and devotion to their country are surprisingly combined with touching poetry and subtle artistic taste.
Born in the Land of the Rising Sun: rock garden, bonsai art, hokku and tanka poetry. Tough external citizens of Japan, enthusiastically contemplate how the cherry blossoms, how the snow falls, How the koi fish swim.
The Japanese are also unpretentious in food. They are accustomed to eating the simple food that the sea and their land provide them.
Taste is secondary to them. The main thing is the appearance of the dish, its aesthetics; characters that are encrypted in it. Many ingredients are added to the plate to convey a specific message; to become the final touch, to emphasize the play of colors.
Seasonality of food is very important in Japanese culture. The very first seasonal products are extremely valuable. Even the color of the dish should highlight the season in which it is cooked. Spring dishes should be green and pink, autumn - orange and yellow, summer - green and red, and winter - must necessarily contain white. For a wedding ceremony, dishes of gold and red are appropriate, and for mourning events - silver and black.
How sweets appeared in Japan
The Japanese did not know sweets, like sugar itself, until the 8th century. But having learned about the then expensive sugar, they began to use it as a medicine for pulmonary diseases. Traditionally, the Japanese served fruit for tea, in particular pears, oranges, persimmons, and chestnuts. Very rarely, they used sweet arrowroot or honey for this purpose. In general, they did not have a tradition of serving sweet dishes for tea. It was considered perfectly acceptable to serve shiitake mushrooms, boiled fish, potatoes, fried sardines with tea.
In the 16th century, the Portuguese brought with them fried foods, pastries that the Japanese did not know, as well as sweets: boro (cookies), conpeito (sweets), carumeira (caramel).
The Japanese have carefully preserved the recipes of the sweets brought by the Portuguese to this day, and also created their own, national, from familiar products.
Many sweets were originally used as an offering to the gods, and also as a treat to ancestors. Only after some time, ordinary people began to use sweets as a dessert.
Wagashi - real Japanese sweets
Japanese sweets wagashi have a huge number of varieties. They are not only tasty, but also healthy, because they are prepared from natural products, and also have a less sweet taste than sweets from Europe.
Wagashi are available raw, semi-raw from agar-agar, and also dry. Initially, this term was called nuts and fruits.
The basis of wagashi is a dough made from special rice flour, agar-agar seaweed, and a special paste made from red adzuki beans with added sugar.
The red beans are not chosen by chance. In Japanese culture, it is believed that red is very valuable for humans - it protects against disease and misfortune. When wagashi first appeared, they were made from rice, vegetable oil, and flour.Only in the 12th century they began to add bean paste to them, and in the 18th century - sugar.
One of the varieties of wagashi is mochi. These are glutinous rice cakes that are kneaded in a mortar. There are many types of mochi with different fillings.
A feature of many sweets in Japan is their hand-made. The master makes each product unique, investing his soul and imagination.
Currently, nuts, dried fruits, flower nectar, green tea, and chestnuts are also added to wagashi.
Ancient sweets of Japan
Yekan is considered one of the oldest delicacies. This is a kind of marshmallow made from adzuki bean paste, agar-agar and sugar. Sometimes the yekan is enclosed in transparent jelly, and then it becomes like an exquisite piece of jewelry that is in a glass cube. And inside the yekan can be a variety of fruits and berries.
Tai-yaki has an interesting look and taste. They come in the form of fish (baked) or round pancakes stuffed with bean paste - like sandwiches. The inside of the baked fish is bean paste or custard. Such sweets are eaten hot.
Dango is considered an ancient, truly Japanese delicacy. First it was made from nuts, and then it was made from rice flour and tofu cheese.
These are small balls that are steamed or boiled and then fried. Finished balls are strung on a skewer. Then they are poured with a special sauce made from sugar, soy sauce, Merino, water, starch.
There are a huge number of variations of dango with different fillings: green tea, covered with chestnut paste; with sesame seeds, covered with red bean paste.
Amazing art of amezaiku
Probably the most beautiful external, but incredibly simple in composition, are the Japanese Amezaiku candies. These candies are works of art. This ability to make sweets from China came in the VIII century.
Lollipops are made in the form of fish, various animals, insects, birds. Initially, such candies were made only by the ministers of the temples in Kyoto to present them as a gift to the gods. The candy color was white and red. Sugar syrup, metal and wooden sticks, and tiny scissors were used to make them.
In the seventies of the last century, the art of making lollipops gradually went out of fashion. This art is currently being revived. Lollipops are still made by hand, using only scissors, sticks and tweezers. In a mixture of starch, sugar syrup and dye, some craftsmen add gelatin.
The composition for the future product is prepared in advance and rolled in the form of a ball. Before work, the mixture is heated, and then, with the hot substance, work quickly. Previously, sweets were blown out of syrup through a long straw, but then, this method was banned, as it is unhygienic.
Delightfully beautiful candies are often bought as a gift. There are very few amezaiku masters left in Japan. I am glad that young people want to do this art. One of the youngest, but already famous all over the world, masters, Sintri Tezuka creates lollipops of amazing beauty, he has two stores in Tokyo. The demand for sweets is stable and rush.
Kompeito - other people's sweets that have become Japanese
This sweet was brought to Japan by the Portuguese. It consists of small balls with a diameter of 5 to 10 mm. On the surface of the balls, during the production process, tiny bumps are formed - growths.
Such sweets are made with the help of a special container - dora, which rotates, and melted sugar is continuously dripping from it. The entire manufacturing process takes from a week to 10 days. Until now, such sweets are prepared by hand. Tiny sweets brought from another country have retained their authenticity over the centuries and have become a recognizable part of Japanese culture.
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