Wagashi/ Nerikiri Tales


What is Wagashi and Nerikiri?

Look at the pictures of these lovely cakes! I screenshot this from Instagram, if you are interested you can search wagashi or nerikiri. Wagashi (和菓子) is the umbrella term for Japanese sweets/ confectionary that accompanies tea. In a proper traditional tea ceremony, you will have something sweet to offset the bitter greet tea taste. Naturally these are small and bite sized so it does not overpower the tea.

Nerikiri (煉り切り)

Unde Wagashi, Nerikiri is sweet white bean paste that is the basis of the delightful pictures you see up. There are 3 main ingredients to make nerikiri: white bean, glutinouse rice flour and sugar. For the filling it is usually red bean paste, but you can put almost anything inside. The beautiful colours are from the food coloring, and the patterns are from either stamps or tools.

What I Did

Since it was my first try, I followed the recipe properly, I swear.

So lack of guidance and be a tricky thing, so here is my very first attempt on making pretty cherry blossom. You can see that I may have to practice a lot more. The bean paste is fiddly and if your hands are too dry the bean paste will stick. If hands are too wet, this nerikiri ends up dissolving when trying to shape.

After a few tries, I have a more respectable Chrysanthemum that’s blue and white. I know I am proud of my second attempt. And I will let you in a secret: these are made from peanuts.

Problem: White Bean Paste

If you are Japanese or have an Asian background, eating bean as sweets will not bother you. But for many Westerners, the word bean really shocks. It’s high in protein, and it’s good for you, but my Western friends simply balked at white bean paste and sweet. Problem with peanuts is that some of my friends are allergic to peanuts, like deathly allergic.

Hence my experiment with nuts. I got a bag of expired nuts (because cheap is important) and boiled them to death. After hours of boiling, and no joke about hours, I have a mish- mash of very interesting looking combo. Basically, the harder nuts, which are basically seeds like Brazil and almond refusing to soften; my aim was to soften the hazelnuts, but that did not work for me. The ones that turned into mush was walnut and cashews.

As you can see, this nerikiri is very unattractive. The brown skin has rendered a dull colour, and the top is erm… nutella because I cannot be bothered anymore to make this look beautiful.

Lesson Learned

If you want to make nerikiri, it has to be from the legume family like peanuts and beans. If you are interested in other desserts unique to Japan, this recipe book is a good start. It takes time to YouTube all the recipes, and some are spoken in Japanese. To do it the traditional way, it does take a while. Most recipes recommended changing the water three times between boiling to reduce the unique bean smell. Even with peanuts, I did the water change to reduce the oil that gets released when you boil peanuts. Although I am not sure if that reduces the allergic reaction, but no one is keen to try it.

It is good fun, well… if you have three hours to play with the dough that is. The shaping takes the longest time, because you have to work carefully for the effect.

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