Wagashi (Japanese sweets) is intrinsically linked to the seasons and fall is (unbiasedly!) one of Japan’s best. As the grueling heat and humidity of summer wanes and the autumn harvests arrive, wagashi makers get inspired by tombo (dragonflies) and kouyou (fall leaves) dancing on the cool winds of the season.
As the sizzling heat of summer passes, the flavors we crave get deeper and richer. Luckily, Japan’s seasonal fare satisfies these desires with hearty sweet potatoes and chestnuts, Asian pears, persimmons and fatty fish all arriving fresh to our plates. The wagashi profiled below are tied to traditional holidays and speak to the weather and landscape of fall, with seasonal produce and their colors placed front and center. So, settle in to find your next dessert and enjoy the harmony between these sweet treats and the crisp autumn air.
In September, the popular tsukimi (moon-viewing) festival takes place to celebrate Autumn harvests and includes eating tsukimi dango under a full moon. Tsukimi dango are easily made at home using shiratamako (refined white mochi flour), which are rolled into small dango or balls and then boiled. There are several contemporary recipes for making the dango with special variations, such as kabocha (pumpkin) and satsuma imo (Japanese sweet potatoes). Also, since rabbits are traditionally associated with the moon in Japan, the dango can be designed with rabbit-like features.
Tsukimi dango are unique in that after they are prepared, they are arranged on a decorative altar before being consumed while viewing the full moon. Typically, 15n dango are used to create a pyramid-like structure on the altar, with nine dango making up the first layer, four dango in the second, and the top layer consisting of two dango. To further decorate the altar, often susuki (pampass grass) is added to represent fall harvests.
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