Yogashi: contemporary Japanese pastry – Italian Cuisine

After Rome, Hiromi Cake arrives in Milan, a Japanese pastry shop that focuses on contamination. Alongside the traditional wagashi sweets, many new creations in constant evolution

Japanese patisserie exists and has often been heard of in recent years. Macha tea, mochi and Japanese techniques have made their way in the West, colonizing our contemporary cuisine – from the most pop one to the tasting menus of the star chefs. But the journey was not only one-way, on the contrary. Gastronomy has always been the result of historical courses and recourses, migrations and contaminations and this is not only a one-way street. In Japan this influence in the confectionery field even has a name, it is called Yogashi and literally means "western sweets" from Yo (foreign-west). "After the Meiji period, in the early twentieth century sweets began to arrive in Japan from the West, mainly from France, and quickly conquered the local palate. Over the years, these desserts have been revisited and improved, following the Kaizen philosophy of continuous improvement ", explains Machiko Okazaki, restaurateur and owner of the Hiromi Cake pastry shops in Rome and Milan. "This is one of the main characteristics of the Japanese people, an undisputed quality of their principles aimed at improving until the perfect balance is found. Today, some desserts like Roll Cake, Matcha millecrepe, green tea tiramisu have become real icons for the Japanese . And now you can also eat in Italy.

Wagashi: tradition

In Italy it is new for fans, but London, Berlin and Paris have already fallen in love with Japanese pastry for some time. So different in shapes, flavors and textures, the classic wagashi sweets are those that traditionally accompany the tea ceremony and are made from rice flour, azuki beans, sweet potatoes, but also sesame, soy, agar-agar. They often see the use of vegetables rather than fruit, they tend to be slightly sweet and have elaborate forms inspired by nature and have their origins in antiquity. The appearance is fundamental and the result are real handcrafted jewels that satisfy sight and taste with new colors, such as the bright green of macha tea. In the West we now know well the Mochi, balls filled with boiled glutinous rice and the Dorayaki, soft pancakes that traditionally contain a filling of red beans, but these are only two of the traditional Japanese sweets.

Yogashi: contamination

Yogashi are those French or American-inspired desserts, revised with Japanese eyes and ingredients: if wagashi are mainly plant-based, dairy products such as butter and cream, chocolate, and a greater dose of sugar are also used in the yagashi. Even the textures change a lot since the chewy and gelatinous textures loved in Asia are instead replaced by soft doughs. In common, the obsessiveness in the choice of raw materials and long processes. Yogashi were the answer to the influences received, but today they are also the way in which Japanese pastry chefs around the world let themselves be inspired by local culture, adopting recipes such as tiramisu or almond pastries. If the culture of the wagashi is therefore crystallized, that of the yogashi is constantly evolving and always different

Machido, the woman who brought Japanese pastry to Italy

Machiko Okazaki, the creator of the Hiromi Cake pastry shop, has been married to an Italian for 15 years, and after starting two well-known restaurants in Rome, in the autumn of 2018 she decided to open the first pastry shop in the Rising Sun in Italy together with Lorenzo Ferraboschi, Mitsuko Takei and three other Japanese pastry chefs. The name Hiromi Cake was born from Machiko's childhood memories: as a child, under her house in Osaka, there was a tiny pastry shop where she spent every day because an elderly lady named Hiromi gave her a sweet treat and a smile every day . After Rome, Hiromi Cake also opened today in Milan with the aim of making Japanese pastry known to the whole world. In the laboratory to take care of the strictly artisan production, Mitsuko Takei, head pastry chef of the Japanese pastry chefs, has experiences behind her at Taillevent-Robuchon, the most famous French restaurant in Tokyo, where she became the deputy director. Fascinated by western gastronomy, she gained experience in Paris and Montecarlo, before arriving in Italy where she worked both as a sushiwoman in different kitchens and as a Japanese cooking and pastry teacher in two important schools, before being commissioned by the Embassy of Japan to prepare sweets in the official lunches, often and willingly highly appreciated also by the brother of the Emperor.

What are we eating

The project wants to propose exactly what is found in Japan in a typical pastry shop in its look and proposals. The windows are therefore colored and populated with mochi in 5 fillings, all gluten-free, dorayaki in 9 versions, but also with Tiramisu with green tea, Yuzu tarte, 64% Valrhona chocolate mousse with ginger and hazelnuts, Mango cheesecake – exotic, but above all one of the most expensive foods on the Japanese market (obsessed with perfection, Hiromi went up to the mango plantations to select the best). In an izakaya setting, literally "sake shop where you sit", you sit every day from breakfast with the cafeteria and its typical croissants with matcha tea, to lunch with the characteristic obento, to a snack with small creations which accompany the traditional tea ceremony and then close at 22:00 with cakes and single portions to be enjoyed comfortably even at home.

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