If you are an avid social media user or just into ASMR, you may have come across the edible crystal craze. Although it may seem to be just the latest trend that has taken TikTok and Instagram by storm, edible crystals have existed in Japan for a long time.
The Japanese word for edible crystals is kohakutou (琥珀糖) which literally translates into “amber sugar.” Kohakutou is a type of wagashi (traditional Japanese sweet) that is made with sugar, water, and agar. Traditional kohakutou is usually cut into squares and rectangles, but in recent years, it has been made to look like crystals and jewelry.
The history of kohakutou is said to date back to the Edo period when Tarozaemon Minoya, the creator of agar, first invented it. Back then it was called kingyokuto (金玉糖) or “golden sugar.” However, because it was sometimes dyed with grapefruit or orange peels, it later became known as “amber sugar".
Why is it so popular?
1. Transparent foods
Perhaps one reason why kohakotou has become so popular is due to the rise of transparent sweets, which first started with the raindrop cake (try our recipe). Transparent sweets are great at attracting the attention of social media users, so much so that there are now even recipe books, magazine articles, and creators who specialize in making transparent sweets.
2. Easy to make
Most kohakutou businesses are pricey and likely upsell due to the flavors of their candies, but kohakotou is actually very easy to make at home.
You can make kohakutou by mixing together 1 cup of sugar, ½ cup of water or liquid of your choice, and a teaspoon of agar powder. After combining all the ingredients in the pot, the mixture should look like a slightly viscous golden liquid. Pour the mixture into Tupperware containers, and start adding any extra toppings like dried fruit, flavorings, and food coloring. After solidifying in the fridge for a few hours or overnight, remove them from the containers, cut into shapes of your choice, then leave out to dry for 4-5 days. After it finishes hardening, final touches such as edible glitter can be added, giving kohakutou that jewel-like finish.
3. Satisfying crunch
In their final form, kohakutou should have a hard shell but remain soft on the inside. Its unique texture is the primary reason why it's so popular, particularly with ASMR-ers. The satisfying crunch makes it both fun to eat and listen to.
About the author:
Samantha is currently a 5th-year JET in Okinawa, originally from Hawaii. She has been somewhat connected to Japanese culture her whole life despite being Chinese American. She's had the privilege of traveling to Japan and experiencing Japanese culture at a young age. She loves food and is always looking to try new places. When she is not working or out eating, she is an avid baker at home and has been known to feed her colleagues an excessive amount of baked goods.