When it comes to food, it’s the Japanese that takes a lot of pride, at times to the extent of an art form. Hence, the food presentations and meticulous details given to every dish or item, is the result of their perseverance or cultural inheritance. Have you ever heard of Wagashi & Nerikiri? They are delightful tea treats made from natural based, mainly plant ingredients such as adzuki beans and grains. Generally sweet, matcha tea accompanied will balance the sweetness to create the perfect combination.
Why are we reviewing this, you may wonder? Is it not only available in Japan? The M Makan Kaki’s found some here at home in Malaysia. Read on for more.
Wagashi are classified into 3 categories according to the production method and moisture content. Most importantly, the moisture content determines the best-before date.
- Namagashi, or fresh confectionery, has a moisture level of 30 % or more.
- Han namagashi, or half-dry confectionery, has a moisture level of 10-30 %.
- Higashi, or dry confectionery, has a moisture level of 10 % or less.
What is Nerikiri?
Introducing Nerikiri, categorized as “Jonamagashi” – is a name to the signifies the most artistic or high-grade pieces of Japanese confectionery. These edible art are hand-crafted by masters who spend years honing their skills. The beautiful outside layer, made of Shiroan (white bean paste) inter mixed with sweet and soft Mochi (called Gyuhi), is coloured and finally shaped. By adding Gyuhi, it becomes easier to shape and adds a smooth chewy texture to it.
Nerikiri comes in different shape and forms of natural beauty, mostly represents different types of seasons. For example in spring, when cherry blossoms are in full bloom, nerikiri are in the shape of cherry blossoms. There are no limits to Nerikiri with the changing seasons while respresenting the essence of Japanese culture. Each piece are unique and has their own names. Whenever a new kind was created, the confectioners will give them a proper name befittingly. There are specific traditional tools used in shaping the nerikiri.
A gift of joy
I was introduced to the Wagashi world when I was generously gifted a box during the Mid- Autumn Season. In it revealed 6 different pieces of Nerikiri. I was attracted when I saw such fine pieces and wanted to know the story behind each piece. A bamboo shoot, purple flower, rainbow fireworks, an imperial koi fish, a ripe pomelo and lastly a bunny admiring the moon. Later, I found out it signifies the Jade Bunny, one of the legendary myths of Mid Autumn Festival. There are two flavours adzuki red bean and another surprise flavour (not to be revealed yet)
Behind such stunning art was Amai Kitchen, founded by Vny Ho. An exceptional and talented lady based here in Ipoh. I had a lovely conversation with Vny to get to know more about her and her home-based confectionary. Vny crafted each Nerikiri by herself and spends hours practicing while her husband makes the deliveries. The joy behind each smile of her customers keeps her going and makes the sleepless nights worth it.
Amai Kitchen- Nerikiri
When I asked Vny what motivated her to start her nerikiri journey. She said that it was mainly a push from her husband. Her husband was very fascinated by the art when Vny attended her first class out of curiosity. Out of six, she gave to her family and in laws. She only had a small bite from the one piece her husband had. “Could barely even tell it was tasty,” Vny recalled. From then on, her husband inspired her to craft them and later; turning it into a business.
Vny started sharing her creations in Facebook and crowds took notice. Her first customer was her friend who ordered 10 boxes of Nerikiri for Mid-Autumn and things rolled from there. Vny was not a baker nor has she attended any other baking classes prior. She is self-taught and learns by watching other master’s videos. “How was the journey for you and Amai kitchen?” I asked.
“The journey was bumpy with some roadblocks but I was glad that it was never a dead-end. With every hardship, it has taught me a lot. My believe, faith and patience were all tested. But I am very grateful with all the blessings I received. “Vny Ho
The most memorable incident that happened to Vny once was when she found out the adzuki paste used for the batch sent out has turned sour. She paniced and tried to stop her customer from giving it out but was too late. Vny, traumatised and feeling giddy couldn’t understand what went wrong with the freshly made paste. She worried her other batches will turn out sour as well. Nevertheless, with every mistake made, it made Vny more experienced and confident.
Secret Flavor of Nerikiri
Finally, it’s time to revealed the secret flavor! After a picture-taking galore, I took my first bite. Sour and salty, it hits the taste buds with different senses. It was Sour Plum – Asam Boi! Nerikiri are mostly sweet and filling therefore the sour and salty notes was refreshing overall. I enjoyed them very much while Papa on the other hand, finds it too overpowering. As the for the Adzuki red bean, it wasn’t too sweet and a delight to the palate. It has more of a grainy texture compared to the Asam Boi. Personally, I prefer the sour plum over the traditional flavor. I guess I have a more localized tastebud. Eventhought nerikiri are not your everyday snacks but perfect for the festive seasons as gifts. A box of 6 edible art pieces can brighten up anyone’s day.
Anything is possible when you have the perseverance to work hard for it. It has not been a bed of roses for Vny but the love she receives drives her forward. To those interested, Vny conducts workshops for kids and adults. Beginner friendly, and you could bring home your own creations. Just hit her up at her Instagram or Facebook to know more information. Overall, I will give a rating of 10/10 for the appearance and 7/10 for the flavour. I hope more and more people will be fascinated by the world of nerikiri and be able to enjoy them. Its great as a gift or an alternative for moon cakes!
NB. Papa is asking why we keep to our regular 7/10 for taste! Coincidence?
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NOTE : We do not eat for free, nor were we paid for this review. We ordered and paid for everything that we consume. This review is a general summary from feedback by all members of the M Boutique Family who partook in the Food Review. If you need to know more about them, don’t forget to pay a visit to their Facebook page.
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