My father often had groups of students over to our house – his research assistants, the Model UN team, his honours class… It happened regularly, but I remember one dinner in particular. I would have been about eight years old and it had been a gorgeous sunny Vancouver summer day so we had eaten outside on the deck. A precocious only child I was in my element – loving the attention of all the amazingly cool undergrad students around me. So when my father offered us our desert choices – chocolate ice cream or fresh strawberries and vanilla ice cream – I was feeling bold enough to talk back a little. Cheekily I asked “what about strawberries and CHOCOLATE ice cream?”
My father made a face as if I had suggested putting anchovies on chocolate ice cream and said in a strangled voice “strawberries and CHOCOLATE ice cream?!” I nodded enthusiastically as my father continued to make faces. He finally relented – offering strawberries and chocolate ice cream as a choice in a voice dripping with disgust. Much to my delight over half the students sheepishly raised their hands for my desert choice, and my father was forced to admit that I was not the only one who wanted to mix strawberries and chocolate ice cream.
More than 20 years later I’m still wondering why my father found my request so odd. Chocolate-covered strawberries are a DELICIOUS invention, so what is so wrong with chocolate ice cream with strawberries? I STILL don’t understand my father’s disgust. But perhaps I do like odd or different combinations. I must admit I’m not normally a fan of Japanese parfaits as there is invariably something in it that I’d rather wasn’t. For example, I’d much rather my chocolate parfait without bananas (a year in India and visits to Sri Lanka and the Philippines have made me unable to eat the tasteless gloop that gets sold as “bananas” in Japan) and my green tea parfait without sweetened red bean jam (I love red bean sweets, but for some reason I don’t like it in my parfait, I guess I find it too sweet or something?)
So when La Fuji Mama announced that the Washoku Warriors challenge this month (head on over to la Fuji Mama's to check out the round up), issued by Elizabeth Andoh herself, was to assemble our very own Japanese-style parfait I was excited. The only problem was the suggested recipes were for the red bean jam or an even sweeter brown sugar syrup. Not wanting either on my parfait I thought about trying to make a less sweet white bean version of the jam (I tend to prefer shiroan, or white bean paste, sweets to the more sweet red version). In the end, however, I settled on using the brown sugar syrup recipe as a very rough base for a nutty kinako (soy bean powder) syrup. It turned out thicker than wanted, so at the last minute I thinned it out with some milk and it turned out perfectly – nutty and flavourful with a hint of sweetness.
And that was pretty much the extent of my actual cooking. Sure, I mixed up some Birds English custard with matcha powder in it, but it wasn’t until after I had bought my green tea ice cream that I realized Andoh has a recipe for it. Sigh. Next time… although I’m not sure my blender could handle it!
So while I wimped out on the whole cooking thing a little, I had great fun assembling my parfait.
I started with my green tea custard, added some green tea yokan (sweet bean jelly – of course this was way too sweet and should have been left out), then green tea ice cream and brown rice flakes. Then more custard, warabi mochi (bracken starch dumplings in sweet kinako sugar), and more ice cream. I topped this with more brown rice flakes and my kinako syrup.
(note to self - don't try taking many many photos of a glass of ice cream on a warm day, there is a reason why tv commercials use substitutes!)
It was delicious. I’m definitely going to make the kinako syrup again. Same goes for the green tea custard as I loved the way the bitterness of the green tea mixed with the sweet custard. I loved the warabi mochi with ice cream (they have a slightly different texture and are much more flavourful than the plain white shiratama that are often found in Japanese-style parfaits). I also have plans to try making frozen yogurt and trying some fruity parfaits with the weather heating up.
But, I’m not sure I need all the toppings, because Hagen Daas in Japan has just come out with a special seasonal flavour: cookies n’ green tea – their sinful green tea ice cream with chunks of dark chocolate cookie goodness. Mmmm!