Making Wagashi (和菓子) and a Bento Lunch with Mum

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As part of the World Gourmet Summit here in Singapore, Hashi Japanese restaurant in conjunction with 5th generation wagashi masterchef, Uchida Hiromori, held a Wagashi making class today followed by a bento lunch.

First, there were balls. We were actually given 2 large ones first. We then dipped some red food colouring onto 1 to make it pink before dividing it into 3 smaller balls. As for the white one, just divide it into 3. The red bean paste balls were pre-rolled for us.

There’s mum concentrating on rolling the pink balls and she wanted them a dark pink. She accidentally dropped one and Chef Uchida had to give her one of his! Haha.

There’s Uchida-san showing us a what we’d be making as well as demonstrating the steps.

Rolled them into a large ball with the red bean paste inside. Notice that I’m holding it on a thin damp cloth? Wondering why? It’s so that with a bit of twisting, we’d get the effect as follows:

Above is mine while below is mum’s. I think mum’s looks better. 姜还是老的辣。Nonetheless, I’m quite proud of my creation.

This is then followed by carefully decorating the middle with a bit of bean paste that has gone through the sieve.

The next design was a bit difficult for me. You had to use the ‘sharp’ end of an egg to shape a hole but the egg that I was given was super round on both ends! Chef Takahashi laughed at me before going to the kitchen to get me a smaller and sharper egg. Thanks Chef.

Despite the egg change, my dent was still too large and the sides too thick because I gave up on the egg and simply used my fingers. My neighbour did a very good job while her friend gave up and made a money bag instead. Innovative and pretty too!

This is the base of the 3rd and hardest design of all. Looks like a mushroom/cupcake right?

Compare that with Chef Uchida’s perfectly shaped one. Hah! Nearly there!! He said that mine was good. Don’t know whether it’s simply Japanese politeness or he really meant it. Haha.

We had to use a plastic knife to slowly make these petal indents. Not easy! Even the waiter was telling me that this was really difficult and I was ‘complaining’ to him that Chef Uchida’s indents were so light whereas mine look like deep cuts but I wasn’t using a lot of strength!

Anyway, the end result is such a pretty and kawaii creation, don’t you think? Too pretty to eat. Below is mum’s version:

When placed together, they’re really very pretty. I had a lot of fun making them and I even managed to score the recipe from Chef Uchida 😉 But he said that he’ll be sending it in Japanese to me so it’ll make me some time to translate for mum.

Us with our masterpieces! Now mum’s all pumped up to create these for Mid-Autumn Festival as a replacement to mooncakes. Maybe we’ll replace the red bean paste with lotus paste so that it’s still pseudo moonie. Ahh…the possibilities.

After the workshop, it was time for lunch! Now, this is where Chef Takahashi takes over the helm. As the former head chef of Nobu Melbourne, he now brings Kaiseiki dining through the freshest seafood sourced from all over.

We started off lunch with a salad that had different types of seaweed and tossed with a mild wasabi soy dressing. It was mild enough that I could finish the plate but needless to say, it was not my favourite.

The taste of wasabi was then washed away with this delightful bowl of hot soba. I loved that the broth was a nice balance between bonito and soy.

Now…what does the box hold????

(From top left to right in clockwise manner) Fried Fish, egg custard with bamboo shoots, tofu and mushrooms tossed in soy with truffle oil; tempura prawns, brinjal, chilli and carrot; sashimi, rice sprinkled with shiso powder.

The sashimi was very fresh and as usual, it leaves me wanting more. The tempura was as expected although it had a bit of a hamching peng taste which meant that the oil has been overused for frying. What wowed me was the mushroom with the soy truffle oil. It was not oily, which made me wonder whether they used truffle oil or actual truffle to cook it together. When questioned, Chef Takahashi revealed that it’s truffle oil but they just did a toss so that the mushrooms picked up on the flavour and aroma without leaving it oily.

I ate everything. Including the shiso leaf. Yes, I was THAT hungry and I was the first to finish. Sorry but as a office worker who used to eat lunch at her desk, one does not daintily and leisurely eat lunch. However, do note that I did savour every bite. Nothing really rocked my socks off but it’s clean, simple and unpretentious. That, I like.

The meal ended with a serving of Sake Cake made by Chef Uchida. I could smell the sake but I couldn’t taste it. Mum said that it’s because I drink a lot so only the hard stuff will give me a kick. In my defense, Tapai (fermented tapioca) has more of an alcoholic kick than this. Oddly enough, this dessert tasted like tapai to mum and I. We then had a conversation with Chef Takahashi on this and interestingly enough, his Malaysian staff doesn’t know what tapai is! Ok…looks like only the Malays and Peranakans know this dish. I think we’ve piqued Chef Takahashi’s interest enough that he will go on a hunt for tapai. By the way, it’s pronounced as tah-pay.

What impressed me about the restaurant itself (other than the decor) is the toilet. It is just so thoughtful and feels like entering a home where the host is so gracious and anticipates your needs even before you do.

In every cubicle of the female toilet is this small tray of feminine hygiene items.

The sinks not only has handwash, it has hand cream and mouthwash! At the sides are ear buds and cotton pads. Felt a bit pampered and the toilet does make you want to linger a bit longer.

Thank you Chefs Uchida and Takahashi! It was a very interesting and memorable experience. I don’t regret signing up for it and am now looking forward to more events at the World Gourmet Summit!

For those in Singapore, Chef Uchida will be having a stall at the Japan Food Fair happening at the basement of Takashimaya from now till 11 May so do go down and check out his gorgeous wagashi.

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