Wagashi: Sentaro Rice Flour Kasutera, Soba and Wheat Manju

Wagashi Series: Sentaro Rice Flour Kasutera, Soba and Wheat Manju (仙太郎)

Wagashi Series: Sentaro Rice Flour Kasutera, Soba and Wheat Manju

Sentaro‘s kasutera (Castella sponge cake) is a real treat! It’s sophisticated in flavor, caramelly and very mochi-mochi (soft and chewy). Sentaro‘s manju, both soba (buckwheat) and wheat are excellent and unique.

Sentaro is a shinise (an old and long-loved store) in Kyoto that is a purveyor of fine wagashi (Japanese confections). The main store (honten) is located near Shijo-Kawaramachi on Teramachi Street.

About Sentaro
Sentaro, established in 1886 and maintains it’s own farm lands in the agriculturally rich area of Tamba (丹波). The Tamba region, in both current day Kyoto and Hyogo prefectures is well known throughout Japan for it’s black beans (kuro-mame 黒豆), chestnuts (kuri 栗), tamba-gyu (Tamba beef) and the incredibly priced matsutake (pine mushrooms). In the rich soils of Tamba Sentaro grows azuki beans, chestnuts, plums, shiso and so on. Plants that grow naturally on their property, cherry blossoms, yomogi and kinome are collected at various times of the year. The bounty of Tamba is used to make some of Sentaro’s signature wagashi.

Sentaro’s wagashi has a decided natural look to it, nearly everything in the showcase is shades of brown with occasional punctuations of green (yomogi) and pink (salted plum blossoms). Sentaro has a strict policy of not using any preservatives, artificial colors, or even much sugar.

Sentato’s Meibutsu: Manju and Kasutera
Here we review Sentaro’s popular kasutera and two kinds of manju. In Japanese, these are called meibutsu (famous, well-known, noted product or dish). Meibutsu is another important term to know, many of the great restaurants and shops in Kyoto (and Japan) have one or more meibutsu. Discovering the local meibutsu is always a good deal of fun and adventure!

Manju (饅頭)
Manju is an ubiquitous confection in Japan that was originally brought over from China and has been adapted and enjoyed by Japanese for some 700 years now. There are countless renditions, but it is an azuki bean paste filling with a flour (rice, wheat, soba, etc) shell.

Meibutsu: Soba Manju
Wagashi: Sentaro Rice Flour Kasutera, Soba and Wheat Manju
Whole, roasted soba kernels cover the top of this manju.

Meibutsu: Wheat Manju
Wagashi: Sentaro Rice Flour Kasutera, Soba and Wheat Manju
This manju is made of wheat flour and has two yaki-in (brand) on the top.

Filling: Soba and Wheat Manju
Wagashi: Sentaro Rice Flour Kasutera, Soba and Wheat Manju
Notice the difference in filling. The soba manju (left) is filled with red azuki bean paste. The wheat manju (right) has a white azuki bean filling. Often, azuki is extremely sweet — too sweet. Sentaro’s is it not too sweet though, just right. Also, these manju are rather dry and even a little crumbly. Quite nice!

Filling: Soba and Wheat Manju – detail
Wagashi: Sentaro Rice Flour Kasutera, Soba and Wheat Manju
A beautiful (and tasty) contrast!

Kasutera (カステラ)

Kasutera is another ‘Western’ food in Japan. It is based on the sponge cake that came over with Portuguese merchants and missionaries in the 1500′s. This is another much loved wagashi that has countless renditions and over the centuries has been adapted and refined to Japanese tastes.

Sentaro’s kasutera seems to have a bit of a cult following in Kyoto. Properly, it is known as “kome kara kasutera” (kasutera from rice) as it is made of rice flour.

The sugar quality and content and baking method of Sentaro’s kasutera produces a particularly delicate and caramelly kasutera.

Meibutsu: Rice Flour Kasutera (Castella) – Opening the PackagingWagashi: Sentaro Rice Flour Kasutera, Soba and Wheat Manju
Packaging and wrapping is very important part of Japanese culture and this package is quite wonderful and beautiful! A delight to open and discover. (米からカステラ: kome kara kasutera)

Meibutsu: Rice Flour Kasutera (Castella) – Opening and Unwrapping
Wagashi: Sentaro Rice Flour Kasutera, Soba and Wheat Manju
The top of the kasutera is gorgeous, moist and soft.

Meibutsu: Rice Flour Kasutera (Castella) – Cutting into SlicesWagashi: Sentaro Rice Flour Kasutera, Soba and Wheat Manju
This kasutera is not pre-sliced. As this kasutera is extremely soft and mochi-mochi, the blade of the knife has to be wet well before cutting. It is a little tricky, so it does come with illustrated slicing instructions!

Meibutsu: Rice Flour Kasutera (Castella) – Served
Wagashi: Sentaro Rice Flour Kasutera, Soba and Wheat Manju
Notice the caramelly top and bottom. The bottom is syrupy and gooey, but this layer is only about 2 millimeters thick. Sublime!

Sentaro Honten (Sentaro Main Store)
Located just down from Shijo-dori (street) in the bustling Shijo-Kawaramachi area in one of the two downtowns of Kyoto, Sentaro Honten is very accessible. (This is not a picturesque area of Kyoto.)

Sentaro Storefront
Wagashi: Sentaro Rice Flour Kasutera, Soba and Wheat Manju
Sentaro Honten occupies a modern building on Teramachi Street south of Shijo where there are many stores that sell Japanese electronics, some have duty free sections.

Sentaro Storefront – Seasonal Wagashi Postings
Wagashi: Sentaro Rice Flour Kasutera, Soba and Wheat Manju

Sentaro Store – Wagashi Showcase
Wagashi: Sentaro Rice Flour Kasutera, Soba and Wheat Manju
Various meibutsu manju

Sentaro Store – Wagashi Showcase
Wagashi: Sentaro Rice Flour Kasutera, Soba and Wheat Manju
Kasutera in at the back. Other meibutsu center-left.

Sentaro Store – Wagashi Showcase
Wagashi: Sentaro Rice Flour Kasutera, Soba and Wheat Manju
Fresh, seasonal mochi.

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English:
English menu: none
English website: none | Japanese language website (nice photos)
Service/Staff: So-so
Price: 500 – 1,000 yen. (no sit down area, take-out only)
Location and Access: Sentaro Honten (main store) is located on Teramachi Street about a 2 minute walk south from Shijo Street.
Address: 604-8032 Kyoto-shi Shimogyo-ku Teramachi-dori Bukkou-ji agaru Nakanomachi 576
(京都市下京区寺町通り仏光寺上る中之町576)
Telephone: 075-344-0700
Near Sightseeing Spot: Sentaro Honten is located in the center of Kyoto near Shijo Kawaramachi. This area has several department stores. It is the main shopping area of Kyoto. Shijo Karasuma is about a 10 minute walk.
Map:

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11 Responses to “Wagashi: Sentaro Rice Flour Kasutera, Soba and Wheat Manju”

  1. kat says:

    you find interesting places :)

  2. Lori says:

    I love Castella cake – especially those brown top and bottom layers!

  3. momo says:

    Kasutera/Castella!! ahhh doesnt matter how people spell it hahaha
    This is probably one of my favorite breads of all time!! I love how rich each slice is and light/fluffy at the same time! beautiful pictures!! from the window pictures it seems like a really warm and home-y place :D !!

  4. PekoPeko says:

    Hi everybody! Sorry i haven’t been over to see your blogs recently.

    Hi kat,
    Yeah, I think I have some kind of karmic thing, wherever I go in the world, I find great restaurants. Sentato is most excellent.

    Hi Lori and momo,
    I don’t think I have ever have non-Japanese Kasutera/Castella. I thought it was a Japanese word at first. Like tempura, kasutera is another Portuguese word/food.
    So castella is popular over where you gals live?

  5. Lori says:

    I wouldn’t say that it’s really popular – but it is a well loved occasional treat, especially for local Japanese in Hawaii. Here is a link to the one I eat.

    http://www.hawaiibid.com/bunmeido

  6. PekoPeko says:

    Bunmeido. ばるほど。

  7. Jenna says:

    Gosh, the food looks delish! Kasutera cake is so expensive that I spend a lot of time looking at it but never buying it. ^^; I found a couple of recipes online, but they all warn that it is a difficult cake to make so I’m hesitant to try. The kasutera above is so pretty. *_* Oishii so~

  8. PekoPeko says:

    Hi Jenna, I have never tried to make kasutera. Just looking at it is really intimidating. It would seem to be something that is technically very difficult to make. Super oishii desu yo!

  9. [...] preparation of the 30th day of the 6 month, I (Peko), stopped by Sentaro (reviewed previously here) in the food court at Takashimaya Department Store and picked up some minazuki and chadando. [...]

  10. Jim Takita says:

    I’m from Hawaii. When I was a child (1932b.) my parents used to bring home a wagashi that was molded into a cherry blossom shape and tasted like sweet rice powder. Not too sweet but it had an AN center. I went to Kyoto several times plus Nara and Tokyo but couldn’t find it. Any ideas? Was it cooked?

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