Traditional Japanese food has always been as pretty as it’s tasty, becoming recognized as an Intangible UNESCO Cultural Heritage. From the perfectly arranged shapes and colors to reflect the seasons, the style of every little plate and cup, to sushi bites and the Japanese cute take on pastries, every time you buy food it will have the utmost attention to presentation. The land that loves ‘kawaii’ and cartoon characters bento boxes never disappoints when it comes to food aesthetics. Staying home and cooking more in the spring of 2020 blossomed into these beautiful cooking trends in Japan.
Toasting some bread is considered a basic skill that requires no recipe, no cooking talent, no big effort. But that doesn’t mean you cannot elevate even the simplest thing. Designer and artist Manami Sasaki has captured everyone’s heart on Instagram, and even to her own surprise her followers number jumped from around a 1000 to almost 18.000 as of the time of writing this.
Her toast is a canvas for art she’s decorating with colorful food. She has made ukiyo-e scenes, ink paintings, posters and and magazine covers, geometric minimalist patterns… but originally she wowed everyone with her ‘zen garden toast’. This toast is beautiful and simple at the same time, and it can be easily recreated with just a few ingredients and a few steps.
Many have recreated this simple toast that Manami came up with, and some even took the baton to further create other toast designs. Here are a few below:
Japanese bakeries have always made pastries much cuter than their original shapes. Walk into any bakery and you’re sure to find pastries shaped as hearts, animals, cartoon characters – and they are being sold daily and marketed to everyone. It has always been a trend in home cooking to add little eyes and ears if possible to your cookies, make them look like teddy bears for example.
Master baker can take this up a notch, by employing the same technique of Japanese candy-making called Kintaro-ame. This technique has also been used in making artsy sushi rolls, a past Internet hit. When it comes to bread, this technique of rolling and cutting needs to account for leavening and baking too. Every component of the bread is planned out perfectly, so when you cut it at the end each slice can produce the image you crafted. The most famous Instagram page that has been doing this for long tim is Konel Bread.
Aside from the cross-section image slices, they make other cute pastries in various shapes and sizes and constantly innovate. Their Instagram often shows the making and cutting process on video, so you can glimpse at how to maybe make your own bread – a simpler design for starters.
There is so much more you can do with bread. Moving from fancy toast and bread-candy slices, let’s take a look at the humble sandwich. A fruity one.
Even though they tend to surprise visitors to Japan with their mere existence, fruit sandwiches are a combini staple. They are a beloved dessert and a big player in the afternoon tea sets that Japanese have come to obsess over. Simple fruit sandwiches usually consist of soft white bread, cut fruit slices and cream cheese/custard/pudding to stick everything together. However, for the perfect Instagram photo, people have been layering the fruit filling to result in a perfect cross section image when cut in half. Enter – floral fruit sandwich. It’s a flower made of fruits!
It doesn’t always have to be flower shapes, you can try anything cute, like these strawberry hearts:
Ultimately, it doesn’t even have to be a sandwich, it can be a fruit sandwich turned into a parfait, or a raw cheesecake in a cup (picture below)
Coffee jelly has always been a big deal, especially as it gets hotter and we choose to get our caffeine in a cold variety. Now, a big lump of brown jelly won’t do well by Japanese kawaii standards, so coffee jelly often has additions like a milky top layer, gold flakes, etc. And now, a layered cafe latte jelly has been trending. Sometimes the layer are horizontal, but for those wanting to be a bit extra, there’s a way to angle the cup and have diagonal layers.
There are usually 3 layers, the color gradient going from the dark brown, to light milky brown, to white. The dark layer is the classic dark coffee jelly, the milky brown is coffee with milk turned into jelly, and the white layer is either milk jelly or just fresh cream. You can use any milk, soy milk and almond milk being very popular.
Any other food trends you’ve spotted? Did you try making your own take on these? Let us know!