The pronunciation of Okashi (お菓子) might be a bit tricky that when the sound is lengthened it became Okashii (可笑しい) which the meaning was being twisted from Japanese confectionery to funny/laughable in a strange way. Fun fact aside, rather good news for KL folks that Japan Okashi Fair (yes, the edible one) is currently being held at Isetan KLCC from 18th to 30th October 2013. With that intro ahead, it’s not hard to guess that I was being invited for an insight so here it goes:
To be honest, Japan Okashi (Sweets) fair is not a rare scene and was held several times previously thanks to these Japanese department stores namely Isetan and Jusco. They have educated us on famous confectionery such as senbei (rice crackers), sakura mochi, dango and so on.
Let's find out what makes this fair so special that they deserve a feature.
Chōshiya was established in the year of 1935 and was named after the founder's birthplace, Chōshi city (銚子市) in Chiba prefecture (千葉県), Japan. Out of their many products, 3 are being imported for sale at this fair: Anmitsu (あんみつ), Omatcha Kanten (お抹茶寒天), and Omatcha Mitsumame (お抹茶みつ豆).
Anmitsu (あんみつ) is a Japanese dessert that has been popular for few decades since 1930s.
Kanten (寒天, also known as agar jelly) serves as the fundamental, top with azuki bean paste, orange, pineapple and akaendo mame (赤えんどう豆, red peas). It also comes with Kuromitsu (黒みつ), a type of black sugar syrup which bears a strong resemblance to our gula melaka in terms of aroma, thickness and taste.
Anmitsu is available throughout the year at Japan and can last up to 6 months if kept refrigerated.
Also, feel free to get these kuromitsu or matcha mitsu for your own version of anmitsu.
Okowa (おこわ) by Kakutani Seika (角谷製菓)
Okowa is a type of rice dish of steamed sticky glutinous rice(also known as mochi rice) with vegetables or meat. There are many varieties of okowa but I am glad enough to see these 5: Sakura Shrimp & Fusiforme (桜海老ひじき),
Black Bean (黒豆), Crab (かに), Mountain Vegetable (山菜, Sansai) and Congridae (穴子, Anago).
Hijiki (ひじき), also known as fusiforme, is brown sea vegetable growing wild on rocky coastlines around Japan, Korea, and China.
My favorite being sakura shrimp & fusiforme, where crispiness of sakura shrimp shell blends well with the sticky yet chewy glutinous rice.
Of all these years in the business, Kakutani Seika always believe in handmade okowa (wrapped in bamboo leaves). With this, it has remained the tradition and nostalgic memories those that made from machines can never give.
For those who seek a smaller bite, do consider these okowa wrapped in bamboo leaves and crab okawa in the shell. Another plus point of fragrance when heated up.
Koda san from Kakutani Seika
Kaname (かなめ), a twice-baked senbei (rice cracker) by Kakutani Seika.
More than 70% of the dough was kneaded with snow crab flesh and sent to bake for the first time, followed by a 10 days ripening period using unique method by Kakutani. Finally it was sent for a second time baking to complete the process.
There are 3 flavors namely Seaweed(green packaging), Black Sesame(black packaging) and Kani the original(red packaging).
A crunchy bite of snow crab fragrance.
Premium Caramel Ice-Cream and Ice Candy by Gazebo
The lavish addition of Wasanbon (和三盆), a fine-grained Japanese sugar which deemed to be the king of sugar has made this caramel ice-cream somewhat premium. Since 200 years ago, wasanbon is traditionally made from thin sugarcane plants grow locally in Shikoku (四国) prefecture and is rather expensive due to its complicated production procedures thus the limited amount.
I am now left with red wine and peach flavors for these non-additive ice candy but there were 6 flavors at the beginning of this fair. Others being red bean, grape, green tea and milk.
Arare(あられ) by Twhy Twhy
Named after snow pellets/soft hail due to the similarity in size and shape, Arare, a type of bite-sized Japanese crackers were made of glutinous rice and flavored with soy sauce.
There are many flavors that come in different shapes and sizes where you can sample one by one and opt for the individual pack of 1 flavor. If you can't make up your mind, "Try-it" set (お試しあられセット) is always available which include the 6 flavors recommended byTwhy Twhy: Kakinotani (柿の種), Ebony Soy Bean, Shrimp, Wasabi, Black Pepper, Squid Squid.
Senbei for those who would like to express their gratitude (感謝).
Okashi (お菓子) by Mebukiya (芽吹き屋), under Abe Seifun (阿部製粉)
There are many varieties of Manjū (まんじゅう), but it generally refer to those that have an outside layer of flour and rice powder with filling of red bean paste. Slight tweak was done here at Mebukiya where each filling is matched to different texture of flour. Peanut manju surprised me with its al dente texture much like fishball.
(clockwise from left to right)
Black Beans Daifuku (黒豆塩大福), Yomogi Daifuku (よもぎ大福) and Sakura Mochi (桜餅)
Daifuku was initially named Habutai Mochi (腹太餅, belly thick rice cake) due to its nature of rounded filling. It was then changed to Daifuku Mochi (大腹餅), the big belly rice cake. Since the pronunciation of belly and luck are the same "fuku" in Japanese, it was further changed to Daifuku (大福), a more auspicious name hoping to bring luck.
Ichigo Daifuku (いちご大福, Strawberry Daifuku) can generally be found in Malaysia amid the many varieties that had come up from the plain Daifuku.
Though all 3 of them were of azuki bean paste filling, it was the outer layer that differentiate them. Yomogi Daifuku (green colored) was made from Yomogi leaf, a type of Japanese mugwort while Sakura Mochi was made from red bean paste wrapped with glutinous rice and edible sakura leaf.
Other than the usual senses of visual, smell and taste involved in eating, I also felt the extraordinary tenderness of the outer layer by black beans daifuku.
Sanshoku Dango (三色だんご, 3 Colors Dango)
Dango to us Malaysians need no further introduction as we've met Hanami Dango, which has the similarity of 3 colors (pink, white and green) but with no filling unlike this signature product from Mebukiya.
Yomogi mochi with red bean paste (green), pure mochi with walnut paste (white), carrot mochi with black sesame paste filling (yellow), each giving the taste of their own unique combination that it was hard for me to pick a preference.
Goodday For You Roppongi
A western confectionery(洋菓子) shop of scones and cheesecakes that started out at Roppongi, Tokyo.
Made without eggs and some without butter, it has a rougher surface, powdery texture and less moisture than those that we would have with clotted cream. From another perspective, this is a healthier option with many flavors to choose from. The recommendation would be "orange, raisin & almond" and "pumpkin & sweet chestnut".
Another try for this blueberry cheesecake of extremely dense texture.
The cheese & cheese cake, their number 1 hot selling product.
Water Drippe Ice Tea Bags of Earl Grey
Unlike the usual tea bag that we would immerse in hot water, these need to be left in cold water for an hour.
Thanks to Sakuma san for the invitation and Yoshimi san for the tour.
Also, my gratitude to Akindo, the company in bringing 6 of these Japanese confectionery houses to Isetan KLCC.
Reminder: This fair ends on 30th October 2013, Wednesday.