This Friday Food is a little bit different as the recipes and videos are mainly about the Japanese sweet Wagashi (和菓子) – from which its Korean counterpart, 화과자, developed in the early 1900s.
Hwakwaja/Hwagwaja (화과자) or “flower cake(s)” are stunning and delicately hand-crafted sweet rice cakes, filled with a variety of different but familiar ingredients such as red bean paste, sweet potato, and chestnuts, and are shaped like beautiful flowers, leaves, and fruits based on the four seasons. They are usually given as a gift or shared on a holiday (especially Chuseok – Korean Thanksgiving) and were originally a dessert only served in palaces and for the Royal Family.
While the dessert is usually considered time sensitive due to its change in consistency if exposed to different temperatures, there is an entire website dedicated to Hwakwaja and ordering it, and it’s rather fascinating.
There is a famous Korean international chain called Paris Baguette, known for bringing bread to Korea for the first time in 1945 which helped Korea stay fed while rebuilding after the Korean War. Paris Baguette is one of the only chains that serves Hwakwaja, and it has over 3000 stores in Korea. It has stores all over the world. If you’re interested in finding one near you, there is a store in France as well as at least 50 in the US. It can all be found on their website: Paris Baguette.
Videos and recipes are incredibly hard to find for Hwakwaja, but its Japanese sire is ripe with available content and just as wonderful to discover.
Here is a lovely video about one family’s history of Wagashi:
And here is a video with a recipe you can follow if you’re brave enough to try your hand at the art:
If you’re curious about more recipes, there are tons of videos on YouTube of easier Wagashi recipes that you can do at home.
Have you ever tried Hwakwaja? If not, would you like to?