The first time I ate yatsuhashi, I was nestled in my hotel room in Kyoto during a Rotary student trip in 2010. Purchased earlier that day at the bustling Kyoto Station, I had discovered these unique treats among the many modern green tea-flavored chocolates and candies that can be purchased throughout Japan. Yatsuhashi stood out as a culinary oddity that I had to sample.
Yatsuhashi means “eight bridges” in Japanese. They are Kyoto’s most famous regional treat. When I returned to Kyoto in 2013, I made a new discovery.
In Gion, the old geisha district of Kyoto, there is a shop that gives out whole yatsuhashi treats as samples! I frequented this shop whenever I could. The shop featured yatsuhashi with banana mochi and chocolate filling as well as strawberry mochi with red bean filling, among many more delightful combinations.
Traditional yatsuhashi features mochi that has a light cinnamon flavor. It is filled with red bean paste.
I made two batches of nama, or “raw” yatsuhashi. One batch of the dough was made with brown sugar and the other with regular cane sugar. Yatsuhashi dough can also be baked into a hard cookie. I’ll save that recipe for another day!
Instead of using red bean filling, I chose to use sakura (cherry blossom) flavored shiroan, or sweet white bean paste.
Voila, turnover-style Japanese treats!