Saturday, August 23, 2008


Day thirty-three: Shiogama

In the last year or so I read an article about gourmands, a quirky category of perfumes that evoke things one would like to eat--cake or bacon, say--rather than things one would usually just sniff--e.g. flowers, twigs, old ladies. Of all the perfumes dicussed, the one that really struck me is called Sel de Vetiver; the writer was in raptures over its ability to smell so powerfully like something--salt--that doesn't actually smell like anything at all by smelling like things that we associate with salt.

Shiogama pulls off much the same trick. Named for a town that was once a center of salt (shio) production, shiogama looks like an old-fashioned salt tablet and smells like sea air. The bulk of the sweet is powdered uruchi-mai, non-glutinous rice, and such is shiogama's simplicity that the raw flavor of the the rice is pleasantly perceptible. The rice powder causes a bite of shiogama to foam slightly in the mouth, while sugar and a tiny amount of actual seasalt add flavor and grit. What really brings it all together is the sprinkling of dried shiso (perilla) leaves, which gives shiogama a refreshing flavor and a tangy aroma.

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