Fair warning: It’s inokomochi time 亥の子餅

Regular readers know I’m a fan of traditional Japanese sweets, in part because they change with the seasons. I’ve been waiting a year for one little delight that only turns up in November. It’s called inokomochi 亥の子餅 (baby boar cake).

With its black-sesame spots on the outside, it actually does look like a wild boar piglet:

The taste is sweet and salty and the roasted sesame gives it a wonderful fragrance. Inside, there’s yummy smooth adzuki bean paste.

It’s a very old custom to eat these cakes on “Inoko no Hi” 亥の子の日 (Baby Boar Day) — November 22 this year — as a prayer for health (bubyō sokusai 無病息災) and many descendents (shison han’ei 子孫繁栄). In tea-ceremony circles, these sweets are often served as part of robiraki 炉開き celebrations, which is when the brazier set in a tatami mat is opened for the winter season.

I picked up a pair of these little piggies today at my favorite traditional sweet purveyor, Shōan 正庵 on Meiji-dōri halfway between Hiroo and Ebisu stations in Tokyo (Hiroo 1-9-20, Minato-ku. Tel 03-3441-1822).

While you’re there, be sure to try their amazing anzu daifuku あんず大福, one of those unorthodox sweets that incorporates a non-traditional ingredient (a juicy dried apricot) into a traditional sweet (daifuku). The combination of the tart apricot with the sweet of the bean paste is a knock out. They’re available year-round.

If you need an excuse to pig out, read this column I wrote last year about why wagashi are better for you than Western sweets.

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