Green tea will forever remind me of Arashiyama, Kyoto. Home to the famed Arashiyama bamboo grove and Tenryu-ji Temple, the crowds come in droves to Arashiyama daily, but he who comes must also return home, and that’s when the beauty of this incredible place truly comes alive.
Coming direct from the hustle and bustle of Tokyo, Arashiyama is like a botanists dream. While the incredible sights and sounds of the Tsukiji fish market did much to heighten our senses, Arashiyama did much to imbibe our souls with a sense that all is right with the world.
The day arrival by train saw us met by many a tourist clambering across the cobble stones in ‘traditional’ kimonos, socks and wooden shoes they had hired for the day. They clippity-clopped through the temple gardens and bamboo grove chattering with glee and delighted when people asked them for a photo.
I was disappointed, thinking we wouldn’t get a moment to ourselves, but the temple gardens are large and explore them we did. The bamboo grove was crowded beyond belief and so a plan was hatched to return at 6am the following morning knowing we were staying at a nearby ryokan. Our plan paid off as the ethereal nature of the grove was finally revealed to us with the sun peeking through the bamboo, just before the trains started delivering tourists.
The decision to spend a night at Arashimaya Benkei was an indulgence that I wasn’t sure would pay off. But we went all out and booked a river view room with a traditional kaiseki meal, slept on tatami mats and soaked in both our private bath, and a private onsen. The Kaiseki meal was art – challenging to eat at times, deliciously satisfying at others, but always thought provoking.
Sitting in our room, overlooking boats put-put past us on the gorgeous Hozu-gawa River, drinking green tea, and talking about life, made this one of our best travelling experiences – with Arashimaya one of our favourite locations.
Our trip to Japan was almost a year ago now and I find my mind wandering back to Arashiyama. So much so that I recently felt the need to create something in honour of its beauty. This ice cream sandwich with black sesame no-churn ice cream and green tea and black sesame biscuits just somehow felt like the right fit.
The cookies are sweet and slightly salty with the unmistakable hit of matcha, and the homemade black sesame ice cream is a little sweeter than store bought black sesame ice cream because it uses the no churn method (saving you oodles of time and effort).
While these can be made up and kept in the freezer until you are ready to eat them (they make 10 in total), I fear they will not last long. Like us, you may well find an excuse to eat them every night after dinner.
Black Sesame and Green Tea Ice Cream Sandwiches
Black Sesame Ice Cream
- 1 x 395g tin sweetened condensed milk
- 6 tablespoons black sesame paste (purchased from asian supermarkets)
- 1/2 cup black sesame seeds, toasted
- 2 cups thickened cream
Green Tea and Black Sesame Biscuits
- 250g plain flour
- 2 heaped tablespoons matcha powder (green tea)
- 170g unsalted butter, softened
- 1 cup icing sugar
- Pinch sea salt flakes
- 2 egg yolks
- 1/4 cup black sesame seeds
NO-CHURN BLACK SESAME ICE CREAM
Combine the condensed milk and store bought black sesame paste in a bowl and mix until well combined.
Place toasted black sesame seeds in a spice grinder and grind to a paste, then set aside.
Whip thickened cream in a separate bowl until firm peaks form, then stir in 3 tablespoons of the condensed milk mixture and stir till combined. Add the remaining condensed milk mixture and the fresh black sesame paste and fold into the mixture till just combined (the fresh black sesame paste will stir into the mixture in delicious chunks).
Pour into a lined jelly roll pan and freeze overnight.
GREEN TEA AND BLACK SESAME BISCUITS
Preheat oven to 180° Celsius (350° Fahrenheit).
Sift the flour and matcha powder together into a bowl and set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer combine butter, icing sugar and salt and beat until pale yellow (about 5-7 minutes). Add the egg yolks one at a time with the mixer running until combined, then add the flour and matcha powder a little at time until the mixture is even in colour and becomes a soft crumbly dough.
Turn out the dough and shape into one 8cm diameter log. Sprinkle the black sesame evenly in one layer on a baking tray and then roll the outside of the log in black sesame so that it coats the outside. Wrap the dough tightly in clingwrap and chill for 30 minutes in the freezer until firm enough to slice.
Slice the log into 20 even slices (about 1cm thick) and place onto paper lined baking trays leaving space between them for spread. Bake for 18-20 minutes until the edges darken, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Use a chef's ring the size of the biscuits to cut 10 circles of black sesame icecream. Sandwich each ice cream round between two green tea and black sesame biscuits and then wrap in baking paper and store in the freezer until ready to eat!