After a three weeks business trip to Japan, the director of JCE came back with a very odd souvenir. ‘Japanese Stroopwafels!’
As it turns out these stroopwafels are part of a bigger project of the government of Saga prefecture. In an effort to rekindle interest in the history of Saga prefecture, and it’s relationship with the Netherlands, they have set up a temporary cultural institute called Holland House.
Around the time of the Meiji restoration, Saga was at the forefront of modernization in Japan. This was in great part due to their closer relationship of exchanging knowledge and expertise with the Netherlands. With this new initiative, Saga prefecture is determined to revitalize this sense of cooperation between the two countries, apply the knowledge from Dutch people in Saga, and introduce these Dutch ideas to the rest of Japan.
These stroopwafels are the results of a segment of this bigger project. Last year local bakers from Saga went to Japan Festival in Amstelveen to introduce ‘Marubouro’, the signatory sweet of Saga prefecture, to the Netherlands. As it turns out this cookie itself might have originated from a Dutch recipe for ‘Eierkoeken’ that came from a Dutchman living in Nagasaki about 300 years ago. This recipe was the modified slightly to better suit the Japanese taste, and became the cookie that it is today.
While in Amsterdam, the bakers also got acquaintanced with the famous bakery ‘Lanskroon’, the owner of which would later be invited to Saga. Once in Saga, he gave the confectioners of Saga multiple baking lessons about Dutch confections such as; ‘stroopwafels’ and ‘appeltaart’, culminating in this new take on a Dutch confection.
I, of course, got to taste test some. All the right ingredients are here, two waffles with syrup in between, but I wouldn’t immediately have guessed that this was intended to be a stroopwafel without being told so. The waffles are thinner and firmer, and the taste of the syrup is somewhat more subdued and less sweet. The surface of the cookie also seems somehow more oily than buttery if that makes sense. While stroopwafels normally are very filling, this cookie was much lighter, I think it would’ve gone well with some ice cream.
That’s not to say that I didn’t like this take on the stroopwafel, on the contrary! However, it’s like by taking a Dutch idea, the Japanese bakers invented a new kind of cookie. In that way, it is similar to how the original recipe for eierkoeken was changed slightly to turn into marubouro. It makes me think of how we have many western takes on Japanese foods that must be very different from their original versions. I don’t think I’ve tasted many foreign takes on Dutch food, so this sensation is quite new to me. It makes me wonder what a Japanese take on ‘Boterkoek’ or a ‘Bokkepoot’ would be like. I would really like to taste test that!
Holland House was opened for visitors on March 16th, and will close on the 14th of January in 2019. The range of what can be experienced there is not limited to these stroopwafels, but also includes exhibitions and events about Dutch ideas on design, art, architecture, water management, lifestyle, etc. Please visit their website to learn more; https://expo.saga-hizen150.com/en/venue/holland/, and if you happen to come to Japan in the coming months, please also consider visiting Saga prefecture and Holland House!