Yatsuhashi Sweets

Yatsuhashi Sweets_1

According to market research conducted by the city of Kyoto recently, at least 30 percent of the overseas tourists who visit Kyoto purchase Japanese sweets/snack as souvenirs. The percentage goes up to 50 percent for some countries, and among the variety of sweets that get snapped up by travelers, Yatsuhashi Japanese cookies are the most well known in the city.

Yatsuhashi cookies are separated into three different kinds. The most traditional one uses a steamed mixture of rice flour, sugar and cinnamon. The dough made of these ingredients is flattened, then baked until it gets hard. The resulting roundish shape resembles a Japanese harp.  Since the dough is dense with a certain thickness, you may find it a bit hard to bite. This is one of the characteristics for Yatsuhashi. Its cinnamon flavor will spread into your mouth upon the first bite.

The second kind of Yatsuhashi steams its dough without any baking, and is then cut to a mouthful size. This is called Nama-yatsuhashi (raw Yatsuhashi), and was invented in 1960s, gaining great popularity thereafter.

The third kind is An-iri-nama-yatsuhashi, where sweet beam paste is placed in the middle of a squared Nama-yatsuhashi and the cookie is folded into a triangle shape.  This is the most popular style today. They come in various flavors like cinnamon, green tea, and black sesame. Recently, new flavors like strawberry have been popping up as well.

The shape of the Japanese harp comes from Kengyou Yatsuhashi, who was a harpist and composer and taught the Yatsuhashi method for harp. He was also a master shamisen (Japanese guitar) player and a humble man who did not like to waste. He taught people not to waste rice stuck on the rice cooker by using it to make a cracker. After Yatsuhashi’s passing, people named this famous cracker after him to honor his humble way of living.

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