Dessert as Art: The Japanese Parfait

By Umami Recipe
Dessert as Art: The Japanese Parfait

Parfait's come in all shapes and sizes, from towering glasses of ice cream and fruits, to more culturally sensitive desserts that respect nuance and tradition. Parfait's did not originate in Japan, though they have become an avenue of creative design in Japan, with unique takes on this popular dessert.

History of Japanese Parfait

The origin of the word "parfait" aptly comes from the French word for "perfect".

Ice cream, an important ingredient in any parfait, was first introduced to Japan as "aisukurin", and was produced in Yokohama. As Japan modernized, the popularity of ice cream grew, and in 1907, the "sherbet" appeared on the menu of the Mitsukoshi Department Store dining area. In the Taisho era (1912-1926), recipes for sherbet using grapes, apples and watermelon were showcased in magazines. It was in this context that the parfait developed and spread throughout Japan.

5 Types of Popular Parfaits

Chocolate Parfait

The chocolate parfait takes the crown as the king of parfaits.
Adding banana to the chocolate creation is a popular combination.
High-grade parfaits created by famous patisseries and chocolatiers are becoming more visible in Japan's metropolitan areas.

Strawberry Parfait

This parfait, adorned with the beautiful red jewels of the fruit world, is hard to resist.
Strawberries are domestically produced in Japan, with delectable results. All-you-can-eat strawberry buffets and strawberry afternoon teas are increasing in popularity. Strawberry parfaits are also a menu item at some of the best fruit parlors in Japan, like Sembikiya and Kijitsuen.

Matcha Parfait

The matcha parfait is recommended to those who want to experience a more traditional twist to this modern dessert. The parfait features matcha-flavored ice cream combined with Japanese sweets like kuromitsu, anko (sweet bean paste) and shiratama (white bean paste).

Fruit Parfait

Strawberries, oranges, apples, and kiwis among other fruits decorate this parfait. It is loved by those who want to eat a variety of fruits in one sitting.

Mango Parfait

Mangoes are the king of summer fruits. In particular, the mango parfait made with fully ripe mangoes from Miyazaki Prefecture are known as a first-tier parfait.

Parfait in Japan Today

Parfaits continue their streak as one of the most popular desserts in Japan. In the past, parfaits were available at coffee shops, but recently they are readily served at family restaurants and specialty stores. Parfaits that fall into the category of "luxury parfaits" are making a splash at high end specialty stores, many requiring a reservation to secure a table. For a while, there was a short-lived boom for "shime parfaits", which are parfaits after a meal or drink to signify the end of the day. The movement was impactful enough to prompt some stores to specialize in night parfaits.

Both Delicious and Photogenic: The Japanese Parfait

A visit to any city in Japan will be an opportunity to check out the local parfait scene. The dessert has been around for a while now, but continues to persevere as one of the most loved of desserts, continually evolving and reinventing itself. The wide variety of standard and seasonal options are enticing enough, but if you have a chance to step into a luxury parfait shop, this will be an altogether different experience. Whatever your preference, don't leave Japan without trying a parfait!

Umami Recipe Team

Bringing what's new on Japanese food and culture, from traditional to current trends to your home.