Just thinking that I've never seen a reference to honey in any Japanese cuisine, at all -- our period or modern. I have a hard time believing that they would ignore a high-calorie food like honey, especially since natural sweeteners are otherwise pretty scarce. I wonder if Japan has native bees that are not honey producers (like our mason bees) or if they have no native bees at all?
Post by Ōgiyame no Emi on Dec 8, 2012 11:21:59 GMT -5
Though I’m not sure if honey was used in Heian cooking, it was used in the preparation of incense blends.
Incense was made by pounding various aromatic ingredients such as sandalwood, musk and cloves, and combining them with a sweet, sticky base. Honey was one of the binding agents mentioned as being used, along with the pulp of ripe plums or arrowroot paste. The resulting moistened mixture was kneaded into balls “the size of a thrush egg”, placed in old ceramic containers and buried in the earth until ripened - with certain blends recommending a final coat of honey for good measure.
It does seem odd that honey would have been used for some purposes and not for others... perhaps Buddhism played a part? My memory is hazy, but I think honey was/is considered by Buddhist doctrine to be an auspicious food/medicine.
I can't say I claim to know much on honey in Japan, though I've heard through the grapevine that maple syrup is a period sweetener for Japanese. Surprisingly, being the foodist that I am, I never got around to looking into it, so I can't really give you much on that.
Sure Brain, but if the plural of mouse is mice, then wouldn't the plural of spouse be spice?
Post by Saionji Shonagon on Dec 12, 2012 20:59:11 GMT -5
From Eric Rath, Food and Fantasy In Early Modern Japan (p. 90):
"As Isa Sadatake notes in Teijo's Miscellany (Teijo zakki): "Long ago when there was no sugar, all sweets were sweetened with something called sweet arrowroot (amazura)." He says of sqeet arrowroot that it is a "viny plant. Concocting an infusion of the leaves and turning it into a syrup makes something like a thick malt syrup that will sweeten any foods it is mixed with." Besides amazura, rice glucose (mizu ame) and honey were used as sweeteners in Japan."
(This appears in the chapter on the Namban Ryorisho or Barbarians' Cookbook, in a section contrasting Japanese "sweets" and the sugar use in snacks introduced by the Portuguese.)
That's about all I've turned up.
Ei. Wa. Chi. (Honor. Harmony. Knowledge.) - Some guy I know.
Life is short. Eat dessert first. - Fujimaki Tosaburou Hidetora
What would Sei Shonagon do? Chronicle all your shortcomings for posterity.
The absolutely fantastic _History and Culture of Japanese Food_ sheds some light on this. (:
"There is a record reporting that in CE 643 an aristocrat who had immigrated to Japan from Korea tried unsuccessfully to set up beekeeping. Over the next thousand years beekeeping seems to have been unknown. In the eighteenth century, farmers in several parts of the country gathered honey as a sideline, mainly from the hives of wild bees, but their production was small and the honey was too expensive to become established as a food ingredient. It was used instead as a medicine. The Meiji government introduced Western honeybees and beekeeping techniques in 1877, and the industry flourished, with honey production high enough at one point to support exports." (p.259)
So -- yes to bees, no to honey, except as incense and medicine, it appears, at least according to this book.
Edited to add: according to the author, amazura is made from tapping and boiling the sap of an ivy vine -- parthenocissus tricuspidata is its botanical name. Amazura dates back to at least the 10th century and was used as sweet syrup over ice in summer, and in yam porridge.
Last Edit: Dec 13, 2012 1:20:03 GMT -5 by Sō Haruko