10 Tasty Types of Wagashi (Japanese Traditional Sweets)

Found yourself in Japan and wondering which local sweets to sink your teeth into? Well, get ready for a delightful tour of the Land of the Rising Sun’s sugary delights, Wagashi. These traditional Japanese sweets aren’t just desserts but edible pieces of the country’s rich cultural mosaic. So, if you’re eager to indulge in a sweet symphony that harmonizes tradition with modern flavors, here’s your ultimate guide to 10 must-try types of Wagashi. Whether navigating through bustling markets or strolling down historical alleys, consider this your culinary roadmap to the sweet side of Japan.

1. Ohagi

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Ohagi is a wagashi consisting of glutinous rice and azuki bean paste. The glutinous rice is formed into a ball and is then coated with the sweet azuki bean paste. They are commonly eaten during the Buddhist holiday called Ohigan. They are also known as botamochi and the name depends on the time of year. During autumn, this wagashi will be called ohagi named after the flower lespedeza or hagi. During the springtime, it will be called botamochi, named after the peony or botan.

2. Sekihan

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Sekihan is a wagashi that is sweet and savory. It is a dish full of sweet red beans and savory glutinous rice. Sekihan gets its vibrant color as a result of the glutinous rice being cooked with azuki beans. The color of this wagashi symbolizes happiness and prosperity and is served for celebratory events such as weddings, birthdays, and the Japanese New Year. You can garnish Sekihan with a sprinkle of sesame seeds and salt, but it’s wonderful on its own.

3. Daifuku

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Daifuku is the most recognizable Japanese confectionery! This wagashi may look like an inside-out ohagi; however, it’s a bit different. The outer layer is mochi, which is processed glutinous rice that has been pounded. On the other hand, ohagi is just rice formed into a ball. The filling for daifuku and ohagi are the same, consisting of azuki bean paste. Daifuku comes in many varieties, giving this treat a beautiful array of colors and flavors. The outer mochi layer can be colored and then filled with a variety of fruits or even flavored cream!

4. Suama

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Suama are log-shaped wagashi made of glutinous rice flour, hot water, and sugar. This Japanese sweet is made by kneading the ingredients together and then rolling it with a sushi mat to form it into a log. Red food coloring is also added while kneading the ingredients together, since red and white symbolize celebration in Japanese culture. SU means celebration and AMA means sweet. Suama is very springy and chewy in texture and sweet in taste! Although made with few ingredients, this simple and sweet treat won’t disappoint.

5. Manju

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Does this treat look familiar? Although it appears similar to daifuku, it’s quite different as the buns are made with wheat flour rather than glutinous rice flour. Similar to daifuku, manju is filled with azuki bean paste; however, other fillings like chestnut, sesame, or matcha bean paste can be used. Since the outside of this wagashi is made with wheat flour, be sure not to over-knead the dough, or your manju will have a tough texture. Manju will hit the spot any time of the day when you’re craving a soft and fluffy sweet treat.

6. Karukan

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These little cakes are a traditional Japanese sweet with a light and spongy texture. Karukan is a specialty from Kyushu, Japan’s southern-westmost island, and the Okinawa regions, including Kagoshima Prefecture. It is made with karukan rice flour, sugar, water, and yam. The ingredients are kneaded and steamed, resulting in a sweet and spongy confection. Karukan is traditionally shaped into a block, but in recent years this treat has become popular as a wrapping for manju, which is filled with sweet red bean paste.

7. Uirou

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Uirou is a steamed cake containing rice flour, sugar, and hot water. There are many variations of uirou across Japan, and their differences reflect the location and type of flour and sugar used. For example, some regions use brown sugar instead of white sugar, giving it a caramel color and flavor. Some variations even include matcha or a sweet bean paste filling! Uirou has a texture similar to mochi and a subtly sweet flavor to make this a treat you must try!

8. Yubeshi

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Get your tongue ready to experience the unique and exciting flavor of yubeshi! This Japanese confectionary is comprised of a paste that can be made with a mix of yuzu, sugar, miso, and even dried nuts and fruit. Yubeshi can be made sweet or savory depending on the amount of sugar and miso you use. This treat can be prepared by shaping the paste into a rectangle and slicing it to serve or the paste can be stuffed into a hollowed-out yuzu fruit. The stuffed yuzu fruit is steamed and then hung to dry and age. Yubeshi are aged for months to even years! Clearly, this is a special treat that reflects the artisanal characteristic of Japanese culture.

9. Dorayaki

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Give your taste buds a delectable experience with this delicious and fluffy Japanese sweet called dorayaki! Dorayaki is made with a sweet red bean paste that is sandwiched between two freshly made pancakes. The pancakes are like fluffy pillows, which makes this an irresistible delight! Red bean paste is the most common filling, but other cream varieties are also popular. Homemade versions are easy to make, so get ready to pull out your frying pan and cook some beautifully golden brown pancakes. Children and adults will delight in this mouthwatering sweet!

10. Imagawayaki

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Get ready to be blown away by imagawayaki, a delicious wagashi that will satisfy your sweet tooth! Imagine a fluffy pancake encasing a warm, sweet filling ranging from red bean paste to chocolate or vanilla custard. There are even savory variations filled with cheese or curry. To make imagawayaki, you will need a special cast iron pan that creates a crisp outer shell on the pancake. This pan can be easily purchased online, so you can make your own imagawayaki at home. Get ready to be creative with the fillings and sink your teeth into this unforgettable snack!

This article originally appeared on Craving Veg.

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