Called ‘korabo’ in contemporary Japanese — collaboration and co-branding, is getting some traction among the often stodgy old merchants of Kyoto too. Though perhaps a purist at heart, I am quite a fan of some of these collaborations. I was quite amazed to see my absolute favorite shichimi seven spice dealer, Gion Hararyokaku, doing a collaboration with the mediocre Shinshindo Bakery. It certainly got my attention when I glanced at the sign in front of Shinshindo. I slammed on the brakes, turned on a dime, dismounted and stepped inside to have a look. It looked pretty interesting so I bought a bag.
Recently I have noticed people lining up in department stores to buy rasuku (ラスク), that’s rusk, in English, I realized. This is the toasted biscuit that I cannot recall ever seeing or eating back in Minnesota. I have tried several rusk here over the past year and never been able to understand what people are waiting in line for. It just seems to be bread, crunchy dry, that is flavored either sweet or salty.
How did Hararyokaku Seven Spice Rusk taste?
Gion Hararyokaku’s kuroshichimi (black seven spice) is far and away the best Japanese spice for me. It has to be tasted to be believed. I buy bread Shinshindo once in a while and I am usually underwhelmed.
As much as I like Hararyokaku’s kuroshichimi, this Kuroshichimi Rusk just didn’t do anything for me. The taste of the kuroshichimi just wasn’t there for me. I want to taste what I am eating, not just know it is in there somewhere. If I hadn’t known what it was shimichimi flavored, I think I probably would have figured that out, but I would not have realized that it was the greatest shichimi on earth, that is for sure. So, I think that this product is a failure. It could have been any kuroshichimi, any shichimi, I thought.
I sprinkled some Hararyokaku kuroshichimi on the rusk to try to improve it, but that just tasted like kuroshichimi.
My conclusion is that rusk is junk and just shouldn’t even be made. If kuroshichimi from Hararyokaku cannot make rusk taste good, I think that it is a hopeless cause. Turn the page on rusk.
Am I being too harsh? Are there some flavor combinations that just don’t work, some foods like rusk that really are just hopeless?
Shinshindo was founded in 1913 in Kyoto Japan. The founder was Hitoshi Tsuzuki who is known as the first Japanese baker to visit Paris, France to learn authentic French baking in 1924. He traveled around France and other European Nations for about 6 month and brought back the real European recipes and tastes to Kyoto. The European bread which Hitoshi started baking was enthusiastically welcomed by cultural and academic oriented people of Kyoto. source: Shinshindo website
About Gion Hararyokaku
Hararyokaku has been in business since 1704 and makes spices such as kuro shichimi (black seven spice) by hand. The recipes for their original products were developed with a Japanese that studied Chinese medicine in China. Hararyokaku’s kuro shichimi is probably my favorite spice on planet earth, it is that good! Hararyokaku is located in Gion and is a great place to get some tasty souvenirs to bring back home. (See this article for details and map.)
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