May 21, 2017

Castella | Articles on Japanese Restaurants | Japan Restaurant Guide by Gourmet Navigator

Castella | Articles on Japanese Restaurants | Japan Restaurant Guide by Gourmet Navigator

Castella Summary

A unique Japanese confectionary developed in Japan based on a European style pastry transmitted from Portugal. There is no pastry called “Castella” in Portugal, and the recipe for what is thought to be the pastry from which present Castella originated is somewhat different from the current one. In Japan, Nagasaki is considered the Mecca of Castella. So-called "Nagasaki castella" was made by Fukusaya confectionary shop in Nagasaki city in Nagasaki prefecture, and all castella pastries that use the same recipe are called by this name.

Wasyoku(Japanese Cuisine) encyclopedia : Castella

Castella dough is poured into a huge mold, baked in the oven, then cut into rectangular pieces. Use of starch syrup makes the sponge very moist. It is generally believed that the recipe for Castella was brought to Hirado and Nagasaki during the 16th century (late Muromachi period) by Portuguese missionaries. Originally, it was a simple pastry made with eggs, flour, and sugar. Unlike other European pastries, no daily product was used in castella and therefore, it was reproducible in Japan where not much daily products were produced for people to consume regularly. Since there were no ovens in Japan then, a unique apparatus called “hikigama” that used charcoal was created as a replacement. The recipe was continued to be improved and by the middle of the Edo period, a prototype of current castella was completed. It is said that use of starch syrup that is a special feature of Nagasaki castella was started in western Japan after the Meiji period. With this method, moist texture of present day castella was achieved. Also, since highly nutritional ingredients such as chicken eggs, flour, and sugar are used to make castella, from the Edo to the pre-war time, castella was used as a nutritional supplement for patients with wasting diseases such as tuberculosis.

In the modern era, use of starch syrup spread, and with the popularization of gas ovens and electric cooker, stable production of castella became possible. Castella is produced in areas outside of Nagasaki, and there are different varieties such as steamed castella, castella manju (buns), and rolled castella. Tokyo’s signature sweet, Ningyoyaki, is also considered as a type of castella. In most cases, castella is brought home as a souvenir from a trip or a gift brought by a guest. It is regarded as somewhat expensive confectionary that people buy as a gift for someone else rather than purchasing for themselves.

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