After breakfast at Kyoto Century Hotel, we took a 1hr 12 min train journey to Nara. Nara is famous for its World Heritage Sites such as Kasuga Shrine, Horyu-ji Temple, and the Great Buddha Hall in Todai-ji Temple. You will love Nara for its small city charm. We love wandering around and people watching on its streets, reminiscent of Studio Ghibli’s animations. The purpose of our visit to Nara is to taste its wagashi and sake, foodie inspirations made from rice.
If there’s one photo that will make me visit Nara again and again, it’s got to be the famous wagashi called Yomogi Daifuku 蓬大福 from Nakatanidou (中谷堂). Wagashi are Japanese confections, usually served with green tea. The main ingredient for Yomogi Daifuku 蓬大福 is mochiko, a sweet rice flour. The Japanese mugwort herb (Artemesia princeps), a fast-growing weed, gives this mochi its unique flavour and its natural forest green color. Without the red beans paste filling, this springtime dessert will be known as Kusa Mochi 草餅. Yomogi Daifuku 蓬大福 and Kusa Mochi 草餅 are equally delicious.
Don’t have to wait for Japanese New Year to watch mochitsuki (餅つき) or mochi pounding. Catch the dramatic mochi pounding on Youtube for tasters! Hear lots of oohs and aahs from the crowds that had gathered around to the rhythmic shouting from the chefs and watch in amazement that nobody’s lost any fingers yet. It’s rather exciting to watch live mochitsuki (餅つき) !! Do try it one day! You’ll not be disappointed!! For lunch, we tasted the Yomogi Daifuku and its rice crackers. We also brought some Yomogi Daifuku back to Hong Kong as souvenirs. If you’d decided to buy them as souvenirs, it will last up to 2 days without refrigeration.
Next up, let’s go sake 酒 tasting at Harushika Sake Brewery. Sake is a Japanese rice wine and an undiluted sake is around 18%–20% ABV. The starch from the polished rice is converted into sugars which ferments into alcohol.
Taste 5 different sakes for the price of 500 Yen. You’ll get to keep the tasting glass as a souvenir.
We had tasted the sake in this order; the flagship extra dry Junmai Cho Karakuchi sake, the unpasteurised Junmai Ginjo Namazake (highly polished rice to create a smooth aftertaste), the easy-drinking Honjozo “Gokumi” (best served slightly warm at 40°C) and another flagship super dry Junmai Ginjo Cho-Karakuchi and last but not least our favourite fizzy sake, the Daiginjo Siromiki.
We love the rich and creamy flavour of the fizzy Daiginjo Siromiki, a Nigorizake (cloudy sake), that had passed through a coarse sieve during its pressing stage and its tangy flavour is derived from the second fermentation in the bottle. Delicious on its own or paired with desserts! Also, thumbs up to the Junmai Ginjo Cho-Karakuchi too!
That’s all folks! How do you feel about a Nara foodie adventure? Take care, much love from Nara and I, your storyteller 😉