Thursday, September 11, 2008


Day fifty-two: Yatsuhashi / 八橋 

I'm not sure whether it would be better to have a dollar for every temple in Kyoto, or a dollar for every shop selling yatsuhashi, Kyoto's most famous sugary souvenir (miyagegashi). While the city's confectioners are perhaps better known for their ephemerally lovely tea ceremony sweets, these don't travel so well. So while yatsuhashi may not look like a haiku made edible, they have the advantage of being vacuum packed and virtually indestructible.

Yatsuhashi dough is made from rice flour, sugar and cinnamon. To make the baked version shown above, rectangles of the translucent dough are slow-cooked on a flat griddle; as they cook they are turned from one side to the other and pressed flat with a wooden block. When the yatsuhashi are done, the baker deftly positions each hot cookie over a trough-shaped mold and forces it down with a dowel, leaving it to cool like a little curved roof tile. The cookies can then be glazed with icing sugar and various flavorings (the ones above are matcha flavored).

Until the middle of the last century, baked yatsuhashi were the only yatsuhashi; with improvements in packaging and refrigeration technology, it became possible to sell "raw" yatsuhashi. Like big ravioli, namayatushashi (below) are squares of soft, chewy dough folded over an ever-changing assortment of fashionable fillings (tofu, black soy beans, anko, black sugar paste, plum, etc.). I'm not ashamed to admit that my favorite is chocolate fondant; this box (¥1060) came from a stall at the train station and didn't make it as far as the next city. Today you can also buy boxes of raw yatsuhashi "skins", to eat by themselves or with some filling so perversely eccentric that it hasn't yet occurred to the yatsuhashi industry.


Anonymous said...

A friend brought some of this yatsuhashi for me from Kyoto, and I am addicted enough to want to find out if anyone in the US sells it, so that I may order some online (if possible). If you know, post it here!

Julia said...

i wish i knew of a US source! i've trawled through a lot of japanese import stores but no yatsuhashi sightings so far. believe me, i feel your pain!