With its quiet gardens and tranquil temples, you might think that Kyoto is strictly the domain of serious ascetics. Japan’s former capital is a city with well over a million residents, and attracts visitors from all over the world. With so many people milling about, there are plenty of people looking for a little indulgence, and while for some that means a stiff drink served by a monk, others are looking to satisfy their sweet tooth.
Japan has a long-standing love affair with crepes, and during our recent visit to Kyoto we found a uniquely tantalizing version of the rolled pastry that incorporates both green tea powder and Kyoto’s most famous traditional Japanese sweet, yatsuhashi.
Yatsuhashi are crispy confectionaries made with rice flour and sweetened with cinnamon. Looking a bit like an elongated Japanese roof tile, they go great with a cup of tea, and are one of the city’s most popular souvenirs.
With its long history as a cultural center, Kyoto has a few famous confectioners, but one of the best known for yatsuhashi is Honke Nishio. The chain has been in business for over 300 years, but that doesn’t mean it’s afraid to try new things, as evidenced by one of its newest creations, the yatsuhashi crepe.
This being Kyoto, there are a number of Japanese elements mixed into the French dessert. First, the whipped cream is made with soy milk, and the batter with rice flour. Since you can’t call something a yatsuhashi crepe if it doesn’t contain yatsuhashi, inside each crepe are crumbled pieces of the Kyoto confectionary, plus one whole wafer stuck into the tip.
When we stopped by, Honke Nishio was offering three different flavors, all of which cost 450 yen (US$4.45). Blueberry cheese was enticing, since it’s only available for a limited time, but we wanted something a little sweeter, so we turned our eyes to the two standing flavors. Banana chocolate was hard to say no to, but since sweet red beans make anything taste better (as we learned when we made our batch of matcha green tea rice cooker pancakes), we settled on the ogura sweet bean crepe.
Each crepe is made to order, so with eyes transfixed and mouths watering, we waited as the attendant skillfully spread and grilled the batter and added the fillings, which included a generous dash of matcha powder.
As we took a bite, the first thing to hit our taste buds was the dollop of whipped cream, which is more rich than sweet. The mild flavor meant there was no danger of it overpowering the green tea and cinnamon, both of which were present in just the right amounts for a taste as elegant and refined as the Kyoto dialect.
The texture, on the other hand, is all about the contrast between the chewy crepe and the crunchy bits of yatsuhashi inside. Once again, it’s just about perfect.
While you can pick up regular yatsuhashi at Honke Nishio locations throughout Kyoto, not all of them offer crepes. Thankfully, the branch right outside the Hachijo exit of Kyoto Station does. It’s conveniently close to the Shinkansen gate, making it quick and easy to grab a yatsuhashi crepe at the beginning or end of your stay in Kyoto.
Honke Nishio Yatsuhashi – Hachijoguchi Branch – 本家西尾八ッ橋 八条口店
Address: Kyoto-fu, Kyoto-shi, Shimogyo-ku, Higashi Shiokoji Takakuracho 8-3, JR Kyoto Station Asty Road 1st floor
京都府京都市下京区東塩小路高倉町8-3 JR京都駅 アスティロード内1F
Open 9 a.m.-9 p.m.