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Japanese Pastry in New York City

[ NEW YORK, NY - NYC - 7/1/2003 - www.Littleviews.com ]

>>  I passed by the fabulous Minamoto Kitchoan Japanese pastry shop in New York City almost daily for three years and never saw it.

Although it is in an obvious location, near Saks 5th Avenue and the Rockefeller Center, it was invisible to me until recently. This is strange because I'm familiar with Japanese pastry and love its sister store in the Edgewater, New Jersey, Mitsuwa Marketplace.

The area of West 49th Street between 6th and 5th Avenue targets Japanese tourists. The large Kinokuniya Bookstore, for example, is located there, but it is easy for non-Japanese to ignore because most of its signs are written in Japanese.

So, what can a non-Japanese-speaking person do in Japanese shops? Plenty, as I discovered, and I hope you discover, too.

You'll enjoy the bookstore. It has an extensive magazine section that is fun seeing (but not "reading"). Flip through Japanese magazines from back cover to front, their standard publication format. Seeing so many "backwards" magazines in one place is an intriguing experience!

Some Japanese magazines rely on pictures more than words. By looking at them, you can explore Japanese fashion, from trendy streetwear to formal Kimonos, check out sports and review the latest in graphics, among many things.

Minamoto Kitchoan is equally unique and like the bookshop, many of its signs are written in Japanese. You don't have to read them, however, to know that all the pastry is pretty. Even the packaging is a delight, as you can see in these photos.

Japanese pastries are sweet, delicate and fresh tasting. Described as being "jelly," they are actually a "gel," that can be somewhat similar in appearance to a fancy Jell-O creation. They are not like the jelly you get in a jar of Smuckers.

Beans make up a major ingredient, but they are not like America's Boston Baked. When cooked and mashed, bean pulp (like the wheat pulp used in Western cooking) is flavored, colored and combined with other things, most commonly fruit and nuts. The results either look shiny and translucent, or dense, similar to brownies.

Once mixed, individual pastries are molded into a unique shape and placed in gift wrapping. Look, for example, at the gorgeous boxes in the top two photos and at the packaging with watercolor grapes (photo 3). Everything is beautiful! In many cases, the wrapping by itself is the greatest pleasure . . .

Eat Japanese pastry with tea or other warm, mild beverages. Because non-Japanese people need to be educated on how to approach this type of food, many pastries are accompanied by food sculptures that suggest serving and eating instructions (photos 1, 2 and 4). Even with visual clues, however, you may still need to ask what to do. Here's what I learned about the unusual bamboo-packed treats (photo 4):

The gel (jelly) is pushed out of the bamboo tube with a pusher, resulting in a noodle. You can see a small portion of the pusher to the far right.

The gel, which should be chilled, flows into a bowl.

You pick at the gel with chopsticks (front of the picture). Once you have a small scoop, you dip the gel into a sweet sauce (front, left).

Although there are no samples in the shop, many items are sold for $1.60, each beautifully wrapped in origami paper (photo 5). They're great to bring back to a hotel room as well as send to your friends. All are excellent examples of how exotic and tasteful New York can be!

To find out more, visit www.kitchoan.com. That site, however, does not even begin to describe the beauty of their shops. Also note that this site indicates that the Manhattan store was just opened. It has, in fact, been around for five years.

Questions or comments?
Karen Little

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Minamoto Kitchoan
10 W 49th Street
New York, NY 10020
212 765-7766

Minamoto Kitchoan
Mitsuwa Marketplace
595 River Road
Edgewater, NJ 07020
201 941-7580

Article and photos by Karen Little. First published on 7/1/2003. Request permission for reproduction rights and Littleviews will put you in touch with Minamoto Kitchoan.

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