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Friday, April 11, 2014

Spring, cherry blossom, Japanese confections

I visited J.Sweets, a Japanese confectionary shop located in the Mitsuwa market at the intersection of Saratoga Ave. and Moorpark in San Jose, CA.

What caught my eye immediately was a plethora of beautiful spring "Sakura" mochi. Sakura is Japanese for cherry blossom. The delicate mochi and manju were tinted in shades of pink sticky rice, cake, or sweet bean paste. Some even contained edible cherry blossoms and/or leaves.

The desserts themselves are also known as "wagashi." Wagashi are a wide variety of Japanese confections that represent Japanese culture. In Japan it is common to reflect the four seasons (not holidays) in both home decor and food so I wasn't surprised to see spring confections in the shops display cases.

You select the different types you want and they are placed in a thin cardboard, elegant ivory patterned box and sealed shut with a brown sticker. The selections here were priced between $3.00 - $4.00 per piece. They're so beautiful, elegant, and delicious. I will have to pick some up to take a friend's house for dinner next week as I'd offered to bring dessert with me.

They're almost too pretty to eat. I love the way they're packaged to maximize either the beauty of the dessert itself or beautiful packaging artwork that carries over the spring theme.

Imported from Japan I ended up choosing all of the desserts from the Minamoto Kitchoan selections. Here are the wagashi I chose with the descriptions as written in-store:

Sakura Mochi

"Mochi filled with sweet smooth red bean paste wrapped in an edible cherry blossom leaf and flower."

The glutinous sticky rice outer layer had a wonderful translucence to it allowing the red bean paste to peek through. The blossom definitely had a floral flavor to it the same way lavender candy or rose water tastes like a flower.

Oka Shigure

"Cherry blossom colored sweet bean paste in a steamed sweet bean cake. A petal shaped bean jelly on top."

This was my favorite of the four. Delicate and beautiful the steamed cake outer layer was very tender and not doughy at all. The bean paste filling was duo tones with the center pink layer wrapped in a layer of white bean paste, then tucked into the steamed layer of cake. The small pink petal on top is a bean jelly and, imo, should be savored on its own.

Sakura Goromo

"Sweet red bean and soft mochi wrapped in a cherry blossom colored Fukusa crepe."

This delicate crepe confection is so ethereal it seemed a shame to even open the package and eat it. It also had a bean jelly decoration though instead of a petal it was an entire sakura blossom shape.

Sakura Daifuku

"Pink colored mochi with sweet white beans paste mixed with chopped cherry blossom flower."

And tough I've had pink mochi with a white bean paste filling many times in the past the Sakura Daifuku was different in two ways:

1. The mochi contained bits of chopped cherry blossoms
2. The bean paste filling was more smooth and creamy than any other mochi I'd had in the past

675 Saratoga Avenue (inside the Mitsuwa Marketplace)
San Jose, CA 95129


Company website: J.Sweets
San Jose Location: On Facebook

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