Two weeks ago, I went into NYC to help my sister move into her new apartment. After lifting boxes, carrying them for 5 blocks, and having a hand truck dropped on my foot, it was time for some well-deserved rest. We hopped on the ferry, enjoyed the view on the East River as we traveled to Manhattan and went to a taiyaki shop. Wow, taiyaki! I couldn’t believe it!
Taiyaki is a common fish-shaped Japanese pastry that’s warm, crispy, and can be filled with anything. Custard, ice cream, red bean paste, you name it and it can be stuffed in taiyaki.
I’ve seen taiyaki all over the place as a 15-year anime fan. Characters would eat them after dinner or gawk at them in store windows on their way home from school. I was elated that I finally got to try one! But it got me thinking: when I eventually take my once-in-a-lifetime dream trip to Japan (don’t worry, it’s happening), what else do I want to try? So here’s my list of the top 5 Japanese sweets I need in my life ASAP!
Anmitsu is a traditional dessert that I see in places, but know little about. So I looked it up! It is an assortment jellies served with fruit or red bean paste. To be honest, it doesn’t sound amazingly appetizing, but it’s hundreds of years old so if I’m in Japan, the home of anmitsu, I feel like I have to try it. I do love jell-o, so it has major potential.
So now that I’m an expert in Japanese sweets after Googling one of them, I’m going to make a sweeping assumption; the two major kinds of Japanese desserts are jelly-based desserts and rice-based desserts. Our next contender is a rice-based dessert, ohagi, which I discovered after watching Twin Star Exorcist. It’s a ball of gummy rice (mochi, my fave) mixed with red bean paste. Now there’s a 50/50 chance of me liking it; I love mochi... not so much red bean paste. But if Benio likes it, I might as well give it a try!
Daifuku is another rice-based dessert that can be filled with anything. Mochi on the outside and a variety of fillings (usually red bean paste, what’s the deal with red bean paste?!) on the inside. You can have different flavored pastes, jellies, fruits or a combination of them all as long as they fit. With endless possibilities, I’m looking forward to have my fair share of daifuku in Japan. Green tea mochi with strawberry filling? Talk about heaven!
Dango, I bet you haven’t heard of it but you’ve definitely seen it. These circular kebobs are adorable! They’re sweet dumplings made of rice flour and grilled to perfection. You can get them at all sorts of festivals and, honestly, probably in most places in Japan. There are over two dozen flavors to try but it doesn’t matter to me which one. I just want to sit out under the autumn trees in Kyoto with some dango and a cup of green tea. Is that so much to ask?
I think you see a trend here. I love mochi. I get it on my frozen yogurt at Red Mango and buy it from Stop and Shop. But I want fresh, Japanese mochi, the kind made by hammering rice in front of the yama with a giant wooden hammer. I want it to be fresh and soft and ahhhhhhhhh!! I’m freaking out just thinking about it. I’m going to have every flavor and color, every iteration (ohagi included) once I’m in Japan. If you have some good mochi and would like to donate, please let me know!