Last week Yutaka’s Gabi Vatchkova, who grew up in Japan, but now works out of the company’s London HQ, introduced us to her top five Japanese savoury street foods. Here she looks at her five favourite street foods for people with a sweet tooth in her bid to convince the world there’s more to Japanese cuisine than sushi.
For all intents and purposes this is a toffee apple as we know them in the UK or a candy apple as they’re called in the States. But there’s a question mark over who first invented them.
In the Western world, the candy apple was traced back to 1908, when a confectioner from Newark in the USA, one William W. Kolb, produced the first version of this sweet treat. However, there is also a very similar version in China called the Tanghulu, so no-one really knows.
They love snacks on a stick in Japan and this time it’s the turn of the humble banana. A choco-banana is a peeled banana on a skewer and covered in chocolate and sprinkles or hundreds-and-thousands.
They’re a popular treat at festivals and their status has been elevated into an art form with a host of different colours and decorations having been tried to keep the consumer coming back.
Kaki-gori is a pudding featuring shaved ice, which is flavoured with different syrups and often sweetened with condensed milk. There are a myriad of flavours to choose from but amongst the most popular are strawberry, cherry, lemon, green tea, grape, melon, “Blue Hawaii”, sweet and sweet plum.
Always looking for new ways to attract customers, some sellers make a feature of using different coloured syrups or pairing it with ice cream, sweetened red beans or tapioca pearls. It is similar to an American snow cone but has a much fluffier consistency, almost like real snow and a spoon is used to eat it.
Traditional it was made using a hand-cranked machine which spun a block of ice over a blade. Even though there are now commercial ice shavers, street vendors can still be seen using the manual varieties at festivals throughout Japan.
Taiyaki means baked sea bream and is a Japanese fish-shaped cake made from pancake or waffle batter. They feature a sweet filling – often red bean paste made from sweetened azuki beans or alternatively custard and chocolate or even cheese and sweet potatoes.
The batter is poured into a fish-shaped waffle maker, the filling added to one side and then it’s closed ready for toasting.
Taiyaki is believed to have originated in Tokyo in the Meiji era (1868-1912) and developed because sea bream were expensive during this time so it’s meant to make people feel as if they’re living luxuriously. They’re also meant to bring you luck when you eat one. A song written about them still holds the record for being the best-selling single in Japan having sold 4.5 million.
Bebi Kasutera are small Japanese sponge cakes popular as omiyage gifts (the souvenirs you are supposed to give to people any time you go travelling).
They’re often baked in front of you in huge pans and are a really popular street food made from a batter of honey, brown sugar, eggs, milk and flour. Bebi Kasutera taste a little like fresh waffles or pancakes, but come in a variety of shapes. The basic ones are round, but they also make appearances as Pokemon characters and Hello Kitty.
Bebi Kasutera are often filled or have toppings added to them:
Toppings include milk or white chocolate, strawberry or green tea syrup whilst fillings are usually custard cream, mocha cream, cheese, red beans, chocolate cream and taro root.