Food Report: Tea and Kuri-kinton at Daikoku-ya Sabō (Magome-juku, Japan)

Let’s round off my series of Kiso Valley-related posts with a quick and breezy food report. Today’s subject: a tea break I enjoyed whilst visiting the beautiful town of Magome.

Welcome to Daikoku-ya Sabō.

OVERVIEW

Name? Daikoku-ya Sabō (大黒屋茶房).

Speciality? Traditional Japanese sweets and local cuisine.

Where? In the old post town of Magome (Magome-juku), diagonally across the street from the tourist information centre and almost next to the Magome Waki-honjin Museum.

Operating hours? 0900-1630. No regular closing days.

How much? Set meals featuring chestnut rice 1,500-2,000 yen. Soba noodle dishes 600-800 yen. Sweets 500-700 yen. Beverages 400-500 yen.

English menu? Available (pictures below).

Related links? Tabelog.

Date of visit? Tuesday, 27 November 2018.

Time of day and type of meal? Midday, snack.

MY EXPERIENCE

I was winding down a morning visit to Magome-juku in the Kiso Valley – more about that in a separate post – and decided that a light tea break was in order. Near the Magome Waki-honjin Museum, I spotted the entrance to Daikoku-ya Sabō and swept my eyes across the menu posted outside.

The offer of an autumn-only snack set instantly piqued my interest, so I popped inside and requested a table.

A welcome glass of chilled drinking water to start things off.

Let’s have a look at the menu. Daikoku-ya Sabō offers set meals served with kuri-kowameshi (steamed rice with chestnuts), along with a decent selection of simple noodle bowls…

…but I was here for the special seasonal tea set featuring a bowl of freshly whisked matcha and a piece of kuri-kinton (650 yen).

The solid, dull-brown, dumpling-shaped kuri-kinton (栗きんとん) served hereabouts during the autumn differs from the creamy, golden-yellow, amorphous paste-like confection featured in many recipes you’ll see online. (In other words, ignore most of the results that will pop up when you feed “kurikinton” into Google; those are for the second type.) The mushy, sticky kind – written as 栗金団 but pronounced the same way – is a traditional component of osechi-ryōri that calls for a blend of mashed sweet potatoes and chestnuts. Note that this softer variety is not what I consumed at Daikoku-ya Sabō.

A speciality of Gifu Prefecture, the kuri-kinton I tasted in Magome is a moist and yielding mass – somewhat like dense cookie dough in texture – made from boiled, mashed chestnuts cooked with sugar and a little salt. Production begins after the start of the chestnut harvest in September and continues until January.

Goodness. Gracious. Me.

Where have you been all my life?

This was my first time sampling this indescribably delectable delicacy, but it wasn’t the last…

…indeed, not even the last of that particular day.

Shortly before hopping aboard the bus that would take me from Magome-juku to Nakatsugawa Station (from where I was due to catch a Nagoya-bound limited express service), I walked into a store near the bus stop and bought two more pieces to enjoy on the homeward train ride.

Yum.

Like many traditional Japanese sweets, these won’t keep long and are best consumed fresh. Otherwise, I might have scooped up a large load to take home.

See you again, kuri-kinton – whether at Daikoku-ya Sabō or elsewhere – in an autumn yet to come.

Cheerio.

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