I have watched many episodes of Yakitate!!, a cartoon about a Japanese baker who makes such delicious desserts his customers often float through clouds and hallucinate. I always laughed at what I considered to be an overly dramatic reaction to baked goods, until I tried a Japanese pastry called Hakuunno-Hotori that made me feel like I had left Earth and entered a dream. Hakuunno-Hotori, a mixture of condensed milk and sweet white bean paste wrapped in Japanese crepe, has an unbelievable flavor, texture and form. No one was around while I was eating this true work of art, but I still found myself talking out loud about how amazing it was.
I immediately rushed back to Minamoto Kitchoan, the purveyors of this fine wagashi (Japanese confection), only to be told that it was a seasonal summer item and is no longer available. I begged and pleaded for more, but to no avail. The Japanese know what works for each season, and when its time has passed you have to wait until next year to get more. I dried my tears and walked home, and enjoyed a piece of their red bean jelly that I still had left in my refrigerator.
Minamoto Kitchoan is one of my favorite stores in the city. Their attention to detail and packaging is unrivaled, and any of their creations make an impressive gift. I have never been to Japan so I don’t have much to compare it to, but if Minamoto Kitchoan is a true example of Japanese confections I believe its popularity will grow in America, especially as we become more concerned with our health. Wagashi’s main ingredients are beans (Azuki beans, kidney beans, soy beans), grains (mochi-rice, rice flour, wheat), potatoes, sesame seeds, Kanten (a natural hardener) and sugar, which are all natural, rich in vegetable protein and low in animal fat. Don’t be scared by kidney beans and soy beans as ingredients to a dessert. Wagashi is a case where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and every piece I have tried tastes perfectly sweet and unlike anything you could imagine is possible from a kidney bean. They are inspiring creations, and I think the West has a lot to learn from this interesting use of ingredients and attention to detail.
608 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10020
Other locations in London, Paris, Singapore, Taipei, Hong Kong, Southern California and Honolulu.