To the untrained eye this would look like fantasy mochi to most Malaysians. But this exquisite Japanese dessert is still quite rare in the country.
Known as nerikiri wagashi, this Japanese dessert is originally from Kyoto. Nerikiri is made from a mixture of white bean paste with sugar (shiroan) and sticky rice paste (gyuhi). Wagashi on the other hand is a general term for Japanese confectionery as mochi, dorayaki, taiyaki, etc.
This profession is not an easy task for anyone, which you can probably already tell by the pictures. But native Ipohian Vny (pronounced “Winnie”) Ho finds serenity in doing it and sharing her craft with others.
What is more surprising is that she had not yet personally tried this dessert from Japan before founding Amai Kitchen in August 2019. She was awarded the nerikiri craft skills of a nerikiri dessert class in Ipoh which she once attended.
Usually confused with something else
“Traditional nerikiri are very sweet, typically served in Japanese tea ceremonies to complement the bitterness of matcha. But we adjusted the recipe and reduced the level from sweetness to slightly sweet, ”Vny shared with Vulcan Post.
Because it’s made from fine bean paste, his customers have told Vny that it slowly melts in their mouths. Until today, she had not yet had desserts with such similar textures.
Nerikiri is usually filled with adzuki (red bean paste) and Amai Kitchen offers two versions: one with a smoother texture and another with a coarser texture. But Vny also added other flavors like matcha, asam, chocolate, dates and mango.
Because most Malaysians are unfamiliar with this dessert, they mistook Vny’s products for moon cakes and even soap or clay art. Some even insisted that desserts were made with a mold, but Vny always encouraged them to come see his magic in action when possible.
Combine inspiration and creativity
On Vny’s page you will find that there are a lot of flowers nerikiri masterpieces. “When I started, I observed pictures of some Japanese nerikiri masterful work. Then I would spend days figuring out how a particular design was made, before attempting the design myself, ”Vny said.
Practice was the key to perfecting her craft, of course, as over time she was able to turn paintings and images of flowers into designs for her own pieces. These floral pieces include designs of bamboo, wisteria, poinsettia, plum blossoms, hydrangeas, mimosas, etc.
She is also inspired by the festive seasons like Chinese New Year, Mid-Autumn Festival, Christmas, and Women’s Day.
R&D for flavors usually starts with some random ideas that spring to Vny’s mind, which she’ll later create and let others sample the comments. Over the years, she had to give up some flavors that she loved because they just weren’t suitable for nerikiri.
Her nerikiri sell for around RM18 to RM25 per piece, but Vny usually sells them in a box of at least four and they sell for between RM80 and RM100 for classics and RM250 for parties.
Start a luxury treat business in Ipoh
“It was not easy because of Ipoh’s purchasing power, because nerikiri is not seen as a comfort food or a necessity per se, but rather a luxury, ”Vny shared his woes.
Fortunately, it has regulars and is busy during all kinds of festive and festive seasons, birthdays included.
Manufacturing nerikiri Besides that, Vny had been running classes since last year as well. Introductory classes are priced at RM250 per person, and students can learn 2 models and craft 4 parts for 3 hours.
Last March, she was working with PJ Studios, which were well received. But just as she wanted to commit to those classes in April and May, her plans were canceled due to the recent change in the SOPs for interstate travel.
However, Vny believes that Ipoh alone as a location is not entirely difficult to work with, as it also depends on his skills to promote greater notoriety for Amai Kitchen. She acknowledged that the Klang Valley market would offer more potential, but shared that there is little she can do at the moment.
To add, the pandemic was already weighing on his class schedules. “Last September for security reasons, I decided to limit my classes to private sessions only. But it was on an intermittent basis respecting changing SOPs. “
“In the last quarter of 2020 up to CNY, revenue was generated from sales of nerikiri. However, it eventually slowed down, ”Vny explained.
Vny revealed to Vulcan Post that she was able to earn an average of RM 5,000 each month in income in 2020, but without the holiday and school seasons stopping, her business fell by 30%.
Too delicate for occasional deliveries
Expanding sales to Klang Valley is quite difficult with this dessert, as Vny is already struggling to deliver in other parts of Perak.
Due to the delicacy nerikiri That is, Vny doesn’t trust third-party delivery services to handle their tedious artisanal desserts. Therefore, she and her husband mainly deliver them to Ipoh, and when there are less restrictions, they deliver to Klang Valley.
Vny said she has no plans to set up any new branches or new sources of income at this time. Although this is her full time, she also chooses to see it as a passion project at the moment as she is more focused on sharing her skills and her art.
I know I might not be checking the right boxes for a business. I’m not sure if things may change their mind in the future, but I’m pretty sure that for now Amai Kitchen is more of a passion for me than a business.
Vny Ho, founder of Amai Kitchen
- You can read more about Amai Kitchen here.
- You can read other F&B articles that we have written here.
Featured Image Credit: Vny Ho, Founder of Amai Kitchen
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