Oct 1, 2014
When it comes to baking, the Japanese do give the Westerners a run for their money. Think delicate cakes, crusty breads and pillowy soft buns made with equal doses of love and precision.
“Wayo-Setchu” is the fusion of elements from both Japanese and Western cuisines. The breads and cakes that are created by Japanese patisserie chefs are a form of Wayo-Setchu because while they bear the form and techniques of Western breads and pastries, many of them have also adopted distinctively Japanese characteristics such as the incorporating of red bean as an ingredient.
The first books on bread-making in Japan were published shortly after the Russo-Japanese War in 1906. The first book was produced by a Western-style restaurant in Tokyo, the second, titled “Instructions of the Master of Kimuraya”, was produced by the third-generation owner of a bakery that was established in Tokyo in 1869.
At that time, Kimuraya was not actually known for Western-style breads. Its fame came from its invention of the anpan, a soft bread made of sakadane (rice-cultured yeast traditionally used in sake fermentation), filled with azuki-an, a paste made from boiling red beans with sugar. The overwhelming popularity of the anpan set in motion the tradition of wayo setchu and the invention of yet more fusion sweets.
As with the azuki (red bean), green tea soon became another popular flavour for Japanese-Western fusion sweets, making its appearance in desserts such as green tea cakes and green tea chocolates. The flavour proved to be so well accepted by non-Japanese palates, it is today widely used in desserts like macarons and ice creams by Western brands.
Japanese-Western fusion breads and desserts are especially popular among Singaporeans who are regularly exposed to international cuisines. Read on in the following pages as we interview three chefs who each represent a different aspect of the Wayo-Setchu culture in baking.
(Text Deborah Tan Photography Raymond Toh/Vineyard Production)