The Art Of Wagashi
Traditional Japanese sweets are taking a turn for
modernity with new creative interpretations.
ow in Japan, chrysanthemums are in season,” said Hiromori Uchida, the chef from wagashi (traditional Japanese sweets) purveyor Ganyuudou as he carefully layered different coloured bean pastes atop each other. He shaped the layers of sweet bean paste into a ball, then, using a sharp and delicate pair of Japanese scissors, snipped away at the ball until it turned into the shape of a beautiful chrysanthemum flower. Wagashi is not just dessert, it is a form of art as demostrated by the 46-year-old Uchida who was in town as part of the Yokan Collection exhibition held at the National Museum of Singapore.
After its Parisian premiere in 2016, the Yokan Collection debuted in Singapore over the weekend of 28 October 2017, bringing together more than 15 vendors of renowned wagashi makers and producers from different regions of Japan to showcase the craft behind wagashi- making. Through a curated exhibition, guests not only had the opportunity to learn about yokan’s long history and significance in Japanese culture, they also got to sample them.
Yokan is among the oldest style of wagashi. The jellied confection of red or white beans, sugar, and agar, usually comes in blocks of beautiful patterns and designs, and are eaten in bite-sized slices. Yokan was originally a Chinese dish made using gelatin derived from boiling mutton broth. When it was introduced to Japan, vegetarian monks used wheat flour and azuki red beans to replace the meat, and steamed the yokan into shape. This original yokan is called mushi yokan, or steamed yokan. But when agar was discovered in the mid-17th to 18th century, neri yokan (or simply yokan in general) became the norm. There is also mizu yokan, which contains higher water content and is less heavy, hence it is usually enjoyed during summer.