How to Make Konpeito

Kyoto is famous not only for its traditional Kyoryori gourmet cuisine, but also for its sweets (okashi). Being the cultural centre for the tea ceremony, it has also developed as a centre for traditional tea ceremony sweets. Konpeitō (derived from the Portuguese word “confeito”) is not exactly a special tea ceremony sweet, but Kyoto is famous for this simple sugar candy. Here is a video about how konpeitō has been made at the Ryokujuan Shimizu store since 1847. The translation follows underneath.

Narrator: Ryokujuan Shimizu is a Kyoto traditional shop that makes konpeitō.

Reporter: I’m being lured in by the sweet smell… Ah, here it is.

Ikuko Shimizu (managing director): Please come in.
Reporter: Thank you. Wow – as soon as you step into the room the sweet smell really hits you!
Ikuko Shimizu: That’s right! In summer it’s get to more than 50 degrees in here.
Reporter: 50 degrees!
Ikuko Shimizu: Yes, for the workers its a pretty tough job.

Reporter: What’s the flavour of this one?
Yasuhiro Shimizu (5th generation head of Ryokujuan Shimizu): This one’s ume-shu [plum wine]
Reporter: Umeshu?
Yasuhiro Shimizu: That’s right. Here, you keep adding sugar syrup and as the moisture evaporates, the sugar forms crystals which creates the candy. In the drum, the temperature is about what you’d need to cook a steak – about 200 degrees.
Reporter: About 200 degrees?
Yasuhiro Shimizu: And so as the moisture evaporates, only the sugar crystals remain, which is how the candy is produced.

Narrator: It takes considerable time and effort to make konpeitō. The process starts with crushed mochi rice granules, upon which sugar syrup is basted many times over and over again for about two weeks, gradually growing bigger until they reach the desired size. At Ryokujuan Shimizu, the finished product is so imbued with originality that they have created truly unique kinds of konpeitō. They have recently created a cider-flavoured konpeitō. In summer, there is mango and coconut, and in autumn there is roasted chestnut and black soybean flavoured konpeitō. Ryokujuan Shimizu is constantly creating all kinds of interesting flavours that complement the season.

Yasuhiro Shimizu: To produce the distinctive candy burrs of konpeitō, depends on four factors: the speed of the drum, the angle of drum, the density of the syrup, and the degree of heat. If these conditions are not met exactly, then the characteristic burr shape won’t occur. The sound of the falling konpeitō is like the sound of heavily falling rain. But you have to be able to hear the slightest change in that sound. It’s like when you’re raising a child, you know when your baby isn’t feeling well or is hungry or needs a nappy change, without having to say anything. And so it’s just the same with the slight changes in the sound of the falling konpeitō that shows you it wants the temperature increased a little or it wants the drum speed slowed, and so on.

Narrator: The makers of this candy certainly put in a great effort, one by one creating each konpeitō with care and attention.

Reporter: Keep it up! <laughter> Well, it’s so hot here! But it’s great – so delicious and such fun! Thank you!

Narrator: Even though it’s a traditional candy, it’s new. And that’s rather like the town of Kyoto itself.

3 Comments on “How to Make Konpeito”

  1. Sissi says:

    Japanese sweets are a huge mystery to me. They seem so time-consuming and complicated. Thank you for one more detailed explanations and translation.

  2. Mrs. Sky, Sakura says:

    To be honest, the first time i saw these was in Hamutaro on Toonami on Cartoon Network, haha!! Since then i’ve always wanted to try them. i hadn’t even noticed that it was the same thing the coal puffs were eating in Spirited Away! i’ve always wanted to try some,and even considered handing them out at my wedding next year, but for some $0 income-penny-pinching prude like myself, they’re just far too expensive, even online. You wouldn’t happen to know of a home-style recipe that a lame-brain white girl like me could use, would you? It would be greatly appreciated!

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