Jun 21, 2010

Wagashi For Foodies

As part of my tea study, we delve into the realm of Japanese sweets making, or learning how to make wagashi. As a self-defined foodie, I am fascinated with wagashi. The taste, appearance, subtle flavor and poetic name all combine to provide the taster with a unique and truly one-of-a-kind experience. One of the most enchanting ways to enjoy wagashi is with a bowl of tea. The sweet, eaten before your tea, cleanses your pallet and then brings out the flavor of the tea. No need to add sugar to your tea now!

Making your own wagashi is a challenge if you are currently not studying with a teacher. A teacher shows you the correct method you will need to make authentic Japanese sweets – it's not something you can learn from a book. I have made only a handful of wagashi: steamed & bean-filled sweets, sesame flat cookies and lima bean wet sweets. When making your own, it’s important to weigh everything out in grams –There is no such thing as “eye-balling it” when creating wagashi. By taking the time to weigh each ingredient, you are ensuring consistency between each sweet. Since the main ingredients are very static with a recipe, what vary are the appearance, texture and flavor. Every sweet is hand-formed and therefore each sweet is unique. A true artisan will take the same 5 – 10 ingredients and create something that is a mini, delicious work of art. Part of what is so lovely about creating your own wagashi is deciding what they should look like. Use food coloring, sweets molds, spices, sake, fruit and (most importantly) seasonal inspirations to make phenomenal wagashi.

It seems that anyone who is interested in wagashi has a difficult time finding new sweets recipes available in English. Even if you find a recipe, you may not be able to make it since many of the ingredients and materials are difficult to find outside of Japan. It doesn’t seem like there are any sweets recipe specialty books available in English. (Please, prove me wrong!) One thing you can do is eat many sweets and take note of what is being created in Japan. Ask questions about the sweets. Save your favorite images in a recipe book so when you do have that one coveted recipe (hey, there are a few available on this blog) you can make dozens of unique tasting and beautifully-shaped sweets. Bon Appétit!

Recipe Resources
Midorikai Sweets Recipes – This website is staffed and funded by Midorikai Alumni volunteers, so please consider a donation of any amount for its continuance and development if you decide to use this resource.
About.com – I haven’t tested any of these recipes, but feel free to browse. There might be a jem here. Word of the wise: Don’t experiment with a recipe the day you plan to serve it to guests.
Flickr – If you immediately want to start looking at images of wagashi, check out the great albums available for free on Flickr. Search for the keyword “wagashi” to get started.


  1. Karla,

    Great sources for sweets. If there are any more sources on the internet, please post them here. I love making sweets.... and eating them too.


  2. There are some recipe here:

  3. Marius, Thank you for the references. Going now to check them out...


  4. Very cool wiki tips. Thanks Marius! :)

  5. Making sweets is one of those things that have to be done by trial and error. Many of the recipes need to be adjusted to your situation, stove or oven -- even the altitude where you live. Some people have gas cooking others only electricity. The recipes aren't always exact so be prepared to experiment if it flops. That is why Karla warns to not try a new recipe if you plan to serve it to guests.