Sakuraco celebrates Japanese culture and tastes, and sources beautiful artisan snacks and treats from all over the country. Every month has a different theme, and in July we are taking a trip to Nikko in Tochigi prefecture. This region has strong historical significance with the Edo period, and there are many beautiful traditional treats to be had.
In the box (very pretty but this one got slightly bashed in transit – no damage to the contents though!) is a wonderful booklet. It contains a full menu of the items inside, including an allergy guide, so you know exactly what you’re tasting and its heritage.
There’s also lots of interesting cultural information about eh theme of the box, the region, the history and origins of some of the items, and the culture. It’s really fascinating to read, and there are wonderful pictures too. It’s much more than just a menu!
Sesame Anko Donets, Thousand Samurai Procession Manju
Anko is sweet adzuki bean paste, and it fills these delicious donut balls. Mixed with sesame, these donuts have become popular all over Japan, and are still made by hand in limited quantities. The flavour is really delicious, the adzuki paste is incredibly smooth and sweet, and the sesame adds a delicious nuttiness.
Manju are traditional pastries made from flour, rather than rice like a mochi. These lovely round pastries are filled with creamy white bean paste, and they are sold and the amazing Toshogu Shrine to commemorate and celebrate the annual procession of the Thousand Samurai, traditional warriors of Nikko.
Wake Ayu Marshmallow, Kuzukiri
It might be funny to have a fish-shaped marshmallow, but the ayu fish is an important symbol of the summer. The marshmallow is incredibly pretty and represents the cultural traditions of the season. It’s also delicious!
Kuzukiri is a popular dessert in the summertime. It consists of transparent kudzu noodles, which are chilled and the served with black sugar syrup. They’re very refreshing, and while it might seem strange to eat cold sweet noodles, their texture is smooth and wonderful when cold, and even with the syrup they’re not actually that sweet. You can add the syrup to the noodles, or dip them in separately, and you can even try adding fruit.
Salt & Pepper Yuba Chips, Skyberry Waffle Cookie
Yuba chips are a completely new thing to me! They are made from the thin film that is formed when soy milk is heated, which is dried into thin sheets. Then it’s cut and flavoured. This version is simple salt and pepper, but you can taste the rich soy flavour too.
Waffle cookies are a lovely thin and crispy butter cookie, and these are infused with skyberry strawberries, a specialty of Tochigi. It gives a lovely fruity edge to this delicate cookie.
Hinojikari Senbei, Chigiri Kusamochi
This is a classic senbei, or rice cracker, crisp and crunchy and flavoured with the classic sweet-savoury flavour of soy sauce. A simple but very satisfying treat.
The Kusamochi is a traditional Japanese sweet. It’s made from mochi (glutinous rice) like a regular mochi, but also yomogi leaves, which give it a wonderful green colour. This version of the mochi is filled with sesame paste and coated with black sesame and kinako, which is roast soybean powder that has an incredible, nutty taste, and is one of my favourite Japanese flavours!
Soy Sauce Okogemeshi, Sesame Tetra
Okogemeshi has its origins in the traditional cooking of rice in a large iron pan, where the bottom layer would become crunchy and toasted. This crispy senbei embodies this lovely texture and flavour combination, with a delicious coating of soy sauce.
The tiny sesame morsels are actually single sesame seeds coated in batter and cooled, then rolled in more sesame! They’re tiny in size but the sesame flavour is wonderful.
Nikko Rusk, 88th Night Shincha Tea, Seven Flavour Senbei
Japanese rusk is twice-baked brea slices, often with various flavours, which gives it the most marvellous light and crispy texture. This one is made with milk from Tochigi, and is another popular local souvenir.
Shincha is the name of the first harvest of green tea. This version has a great weight of history and tradition; picked on the 88th day after the start of spring, it traditionally brings good health and a long life.
Senbei – crispy rice crackers – come in many flavours, and this variety includes seven classic types, including sugar, shrimp, and butter! Each one is a different shape and colour, with a unique taste and texture.
This month’s non-food cultural item is this beautiful furoshiki cloth. It’s been a staple of Japanese culture for uncured of years, traditionally used to wrap and transport sacred objects, and now is frequently used as a bento wrap, bandana, the ultimate in eco-friendly gift wrapping! The colours are beautiful, and it’s the perfect size to wrap and carry a lunch box, or even use as a table mat, really anywhere you can imagine having a pretty piece of cloth!