After reading Moto's post about making anko (sweet bean paste), I began to reminisce about my visit to a wagashi (traditional Japanese confectionary) shop in Koishikawa, Tokyo called Ikko-an. All of the wagashi are made by hand by the owner Chikara Mizukami, while his wife works in the storefront. He has made it a point to have only one shop, firmly believing that the only way to ensure quality control is to have everything within his reach. Prior to opening Ikko-an, Mizukami-san trained in the wagashi capitols of the world, Kyoto and Nagoya.
Ikko-an in Koishikawa, Tokyo
Glass display case of Ikko-an's jewels
Mizukami-san making ginko leaves for October
Mizukami-san's movements while pressing and shaping the dough were unbelievably precise and no-nonsense. Watching him work was mesmerizing. His passion for beans really came through while he took us through every simmering pot and pan in the back of his kitchen.
Mizukami-san shows us the ideal texture of the beans
Ingredients for Japanese sweets are relatively simple. The main ingredients are azuki (red beans), sugar, sweet potato, rice, mochigome (glutinous rice) powder and kudzu. There is no way you can hide behind these ingredients and a wagashi master's style and expertise will be apparent after trying a few of his creations.
One unique aspect of wagashi is how closely they reflect the seasons. From sakura-mochi in late March/early April to kurikinton during the winter, all the wagashi shops in department stores sell seasonal gift boxes. Ikko-an takes it to the next level, releasing their own seasonal confectionery every single month.
Fall beauties of October:
Another specialty for Ikko-an is their warabi-mochi:
A box of warabi-mochi
The texture of warabi-mochi is kind of sticky and gelatinous like mochi, but it is made from bracken (a type of fern) starch. It is then rolled around in kinako (soy powder that kind of tastes like peanut butter). Most warabi-powder is inauthentic, but Ikko-an sells the real stuff wholesale to other wagashi confectionaries for... $500 per kilo!
Melt in your mouth warabi-mochi.
Tastes like a clear waterfall with a touch of earthiness, all topped off with the finest, not-so-sweet kinako I've ever tried.
Mr. and Mrs. Mizukami with Kayoko in the middle
Thanks for the tour!
Bunkyo, Tokyo 112-0002