Wagashi are traditional Japanese sweets that are typically enjoyed in combination with a cup of green tea. They are made in a wide variety of shapes and consistencies and with diverse ingredients and preparation methods. Some are popular across the country and around the year while others are only available regionally or seasonally.
Sweet azuki bean paste (anko) is a central ingredient in a large number of Japanese sweets. Boiled azuki beans are sweetened with sugar and mashed to create either smooth anko (koshian) or chunky anko (tsubuan). Other common ingredients for wagashi include rice cakes (mochi), rice flour, Japanese agar (kanten), sesame paste and chestnuts.
Some of the most common wagashi types
Namagashi (lit. raw sweets) are traditional Japanese sweets that are most often associated with wagashi. They are made of rice flour and a sweet bean paste filling, and are delicately shaped by hand to reflect the season. Namagashi are served at the tea ceremony.
Daifuku are made of soft rice cake (mochi) wrapped around a small round of smooth, sweet bean paste or other fillings. They are covered with a light dusting of potato starch to keep them from sticking together. Popular daifuku variations include strawberry (ichigo), beans (mame) and ice cream. Daifuku should be eaten quickly as they become hard if left exposed.
Dango are chewy, small, steamed dumplings made of rice flour. They are typically served skewered three or four to a stick and topped with a sweet sauce or bean paste. The dumplings are also added into other desserts like anmitsu and oshiruko. Like daifuku, dango are best eaten fresh.
Dorayaki consist of sweet bean paste sandwiched between two pancake-like patties. It is also known as the favorite snack of Doraemon, a popular anime character. Modern dorayaki variations may be filled with other fillings, such as whipped cream, custard cream and green tea flavored cream.