Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Back in Japan (Kyoto - June 2013)...Making traditional "Kyo-gashi" at Kameya Yoshinaga

(Wednesday, June 5)

In the afternoon, we arrived at Kyoto's artisan "Kyo-gashi" (Kyoto-style confectionary) maker, Kamaya Yoshinaga.

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We met Yoshimura-san, who is the master "Kyo-gashi" artisan of this historic producer since 1803. In front of the entrance, there is a well. Over 200 years, Kameya Yoshinaga has been using the pure water from underground for confectionary making. When we got there, we spotted former sumo yokozuna (grand champion) Onokuni, who was visiting the shop with NHK TV crew. How cool!

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We put on their uniform and entered the production area.

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He gave us a special private lesson of "Kyo-gashi" making. He showed us the finished samples of the items we were going to make. I was fascinated by all the artistic details in these almost simple looking pieces.

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We started with "Kizato" (pure sugar confectionary) making. Master Yoshimura-san first demonstrated the process. All his precise hand movements were just so impressive.

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After his demonstration, Kyle and I tried to make each other's own from scratch. It required so much focus and I started to sweat! Eventually, I finished. The top piece is Master Yoshimura's piece, and the bottom two are mine. The difference between the master and amateur is too obvious. But, I enjoyed it a lot.

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The next one was "Joyo Manju", which is a traditional sweet dumpling to be served at a tea ceremony. First, we made the dough from scratch. We used Kyoto's local "Tsukune Imo" (type of mountain yam), which was like a thick solid rock. We grated peeled "tsukune imo" until very fine. It was a lot of work. Then, the yam was mixed with sugar and pounded intensively. Once the texture was smooth enough, the gooey piece was picked up and stretched by hands over and over. It was a fun part.

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We got the sweet azuki bean paste ready by dividing into small pieces. Each piece was 25 grams. The dough was further knead by mixing with rice flour. We wrapped each piece of azuki bean paste by the finished dough.

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We painted the surface of the dumplings and they were ready to steam for 9 minutes.

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Once the dumplings were out of the steamer, bottom of each was quickly baked in a copper pan. 3 different kinds of iron stamps were heated over the burner. We branded these dumplings one by one.

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Finally ready! What a challenging process, but it was so much fun. We got to take home all the dumplings we made.

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After the apprenticeship session, we were treated to beautiful Kyo-gashi and usu-cha for a break.

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Great experience!