For me, this treat is a one-way ticket back to my study abroad time in Kyoto last year. Fresh/weary from the plane, my entire exchange student group visited a vegetable farm with their respective host families. Despite the abnormal autumn heat, a morning working on the farm was deemed to be the perfect bonding activity for us. To my surprise, the program organizers were right!
I was assigned to labor in a sweet potato field with my host parents. Unlike American sweet potatoes, the Japanese sweet potato is a vivid red on the outside and is pale yellow on the inside. We were instructed to root around in the dirt for these flashes of magenta-red that shone brightly in the dark soil. My elderly host parents were always a few steps ahead of me in their search for the perfect tuber.
Other groups harvested edamame and tongarashi (the Japanese chili pepper). After gathering all that we could carry, we cooked the cumulative bounty of our morning efforts.
For this wagashi, I attempted to use cloth to achieve a desired twist shape (chakin means “tea cloth,” and shibori means “to tie”). The dough was a bit too sticky, however, and it was a challenge to separate it from the cloth. I’ll make future batches using more potato and less milk.
These wagashi have a subtle taste and were a perfect companion to my morning coffee. Their coloring is due to a healthy smattering of cinnamon and brown sugar. As in all wagashi, subtlety was the key. The sweetness and the zing of the cinnamon were merely hinted at.