Konpeito Sugar

Konpeito Sugar_1

Konpeito, a tiny beautiful confection first introduced to Japan by the Portuguese in 1546, immediately captured the local people’s attention.  The Japanese were very curious about products from overseas and openly welcomed them into their life. Japan’s charismatic warlord, Nobunaga Oda, was delighted with the shape and taste of Konpeito given to him by a Christian missionary.  They were rare and precious, so that only the high levels of noble and samurai families had a chance to eat them at the time. After being brought to Nagasaki for the first time, Konpeito spread to Kyoto and Tokyo, and eventually to the rest of Japan.

Konpeito is made by heating a tiny sugar rock and adding liquid sugar little by little to make it bigger. It takes two weeks to make one tiny Konpeito. The confectionist must rely on his own instinct and experience to work with variables such as the density of liquid sugar and the oven temperature when facing various weather and climate conditions. It is also key to listen to the sounds of Konpeito dancing in the oven. It is said to take 10 years to become able to shake a tray and another 10 years to pour honey in precision, for a total of 20 years to master the art of Konpeito to perfection!

Nobody knows how these pointed shapes are formed and some say it has been studied at a university laboratory.

The surface of most candies tends to soften under high temperatures, and their flavor also diminishes. Quite the opposite of this, Konpeitos can tolerate the heat because they were hardened under high temperatures. They have amazing longevity and can maintain freshness for 20 to 30 years. The only thing that one must be careful with is humidity. Konpeitos must be kept in a tight sealed can. They are made of sugar, obviously high in calories.  The sweet taste and lovely shapes and colors of Konpeito can provide solace in times of crisis and emergency.

Konpeito have been loved for more than 400 years, and haven’t changed one bit during all that time. However, modern technology has brought in new developments, and added new flavors such as chocolate, sake, plum wine and others to the Konpeito repertoire, attracting more overseas fans!

 

Photo by sozaing

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