After a two-year stint in Asia, I returned to Mauritius, eager to bring back with me some of the tastes and textures I had discovered. In particular, my time in Japan, where I witnessed the renown Japanese reverence to food and their quasi-religious devotion to their craft, left a profound and lasting impression on me. If there was one flavour from Japan which I had to introduce to The Gourmet Workshop's menu, it had to be Matcha.
Matcha, in Japan, is as ubiquitous as vanilla or chocolate is in the West. Made from powdered high-grade green tea, Matcha has a pleasantly bitter taste with subtle grassy undertones, and can be found in all sorts of desserts, refreshments and sweet snacks, from ice-cream and milk tea, to cakes and cookies.
I wanted to launch a matcha dessert on my menu with a bang, with a gourmet cake deserving of Matcha's class. That was when I thought of the Mille Crêpes, another dessert first confectioned in Japan.
Ironically though, my first encounter with the Mille Crêpes was not in Japan, but in the neighbouring ex-Japanese colony, Taiwan. Given the latter’s close cultural ties with Japan, this perhaps should not come altogether as a surprise. I remember distinctly my first sensory experience with the Mille Crêpes: 18 paper-thin pancakes alternately stacked with a flavoured cream filling. I initially shrugged it off as another one of these hyped-up and pointless culinary inventions, created just for the sake of being new.
But after my first bite, I realised I was wrong.
The cake was light and delicate, flavourful and creamy without being dense. It was an epiphany, a revelation, one of those far and few first-in-a-lifetime experiences, one that I would probably rank on par with my first kiss, or the first time I held my new-born child in my arms (OK I’m not a dad yet, but you get the idea).
I naively thought that I could recreate this dessert without spending an undue amount of sweat and blood. Again, I was wrong, but eventually, after much hair-pulling (whatever’s left of it) I did succeed in making a very decent Matcha Mille Crêpes.
As for the cake decoration. I was looking for a simple and elegant design, something that not only would evoke the serene natural scenery of Japan, but one that would also pay homage to the place that made me discover the Mille Crêpes, Taiwan.
I remembered the tranquil and dense bamboo forest my wife and I hiked in Fenqihu, Taiwan, the vertical stems gracefully towering above us. I knew then that I had the perfectly fitting design for my Matcha Mille Crêpes.