Mar 9, 2010

Higashi, dry sweets for usucha

Originally the term kashi meant fruits, berries or nuts. Literally, higashi means dry sweets. These are sweets for usucha or thin tea as opposed to namagashi or wet sweets for koicha, thick tea. In Japan, higashi include the ubiquitous pressed sugar sweets, pulled sugar candy aruheito, gumdrop-like jellies rolled in sugar and senbei crackers.

Outside of Japan it may be difficult to get these Japanese sweets or even make them yourself.  As alternatives, you can use dried fruit or berries, dates, or combinations with nuts.   Also Aplets and Cotlets, a jelly and nut confection seems to go well with matcha.  In a pinch I have used vanilla wafers.  Some people like those Milano cookies with the chocolate filling.  I don't really like to use chocolate with matcha.  Something about the coating of the chocolate in the mouth afterwards (or maybe it's that I am one of the few people who don't like the taste of chocolate). 

I have tried to make the pressed sugar sweets (called uchimono) with powdered sugar, but they tasted too sweet and chalky. I think it is because powdered sugar also has cornstarch in it so it won't clump up. I have since learned that the Japanese sugar that they call wasanbon is used to make the pressed sugar sweets. Wasanbon is hard to get, even in Japan.

I tried to make my own wasanbon using turbinado or raw crystallized sugar by putting it in a blender to make it powdered. This turned out okay except I had to put it through a fine sieve because not all of the crystals were powdered. The other challenge with making pressed sweets is having the right sized mold. You can buy kashigata (sweet molds) on the internet, but most of them are too big for higashi (another post we can talk about using the larger molds). If you do not have a kashigata, you can look for plastic candy molds at craft stores that are nearer the right size. I have also used a melon baller or rounded teaspoon measure to make domed pressed sweets. It is a simple shape, but they work well. Finally, you can make pressed sweets in a square or bar shaped mold and then cut the higashi into blocks.

The following is a recipe for rakugan from Kimika Soko Takechi and Larry Sokyo Tiscornia at

kanbaiko (cooked mochi rice flour) 33gm (1.2oz)
granulated sugar 66gm (2.3oz) (or super fine Bakers Sugar if available)
shitorimitsu (sugar water) approx. 2tsp
color (optional)
flavoring (optional)

(mizuame [syrup] or Karo light corn syrup) 1 part
(water) 2 parts

Note-Kanbaiko from Japan is usually not available in the US. Some large Vietnamese or Chinese markets may carry cooked glutinous rice flour which is similar to kanbaiko. It is usually from Hong Kong and the package may say "fried" rice flour on it which refers to it being cooked. (Note from Margie: Look for the package with a rooster on it.)

Make the shitorimitsu by bringing the mizuame, or light corn syrup, and water to the boil so that all of the liquids blend together. Let cool.

Mix the sugar and shitorimitsu in a bowl until it is blended well (use your hands for best results). If using color, it can be added to the shitorimitsu before mixing with the sugar. Gradually mix in the kanbaiko until everything is well blended. Sift into a larger bowl. A Japanese dry sweet mold can be lightly dusted with katakuriko (potato starch) or corn starch. Press the mixture into the mold until the openings are full. Use your thumb to put maximum pressure on each design. Place a piece of waxed paper over the top of the mold and using a flat object press the remaining dry mixture into the mold. Remove the sweets from the mold and let dry a couple of hours before placing in an airtight container. This recipe make approximately 25 sweets.

If you do not have a sweet mold you can proceed with the preparation of the uchimono mixture and can place a layer in a plastic lined mold. Press the mixture into the mold using a flat wooden board. Japanese yokan, sweet bean jelly, can be sliced and placed on top of the pressed mixture. More mixture can be placed on top of the yokan and pressed again. Let sit a couple of hours before cutting.


  1. Thanks for this; I'll have to give it a try.

  2. Nick thanks for the comment. Let me know how it turns out.

  3. Any chance there's a place in Japan that would ship higashi?

    1. Anonymous,
      Thank youfor your comment. You might try this site: