Karinto (fried-dough cookies) (かりんとう)
Karinto is a type of sweets and the recipe is as follows: Knead wheat flour together with other ingredients such as sugar, water, yeast, salt and baking soda into a ball of dough, fry the dough rolled into a long thin stick in vegetable oil, coat with syrup made from brown sugar or superfine sugar and dry.
Karinto is sometimes written in kanji (Chinese characters) that means 'sweet flowering trees.'
It is often written in the mixture of hiragana (Japanese syllabary characters) and kanji, with 'karin' being written in hiragana while 'to'(sugar) is written in kanji.
There are products similar to karinto including Hoten, Kaminari and Kuroneji.
There are various opinions on the origin of karinto but none of them is definitive.
According to the opinion identifying Tang confectionery as its origin, karinto was brought over from China by a Japanese envoy to Tang Dynasty China in the Nara Period and was enjoyed by the upper class people in Kyoto. During the Edo Period, karinto spread into the Kanto region and, in the early Meiji period, starting from the Tokyo Asakusa area, it began to gain popularity as a food for ordinary people.
In China today, there are some sweets similar to karinto that are referred to as 'mahua' or 'baangsa.'
There are fried sweets made of rice flour known as Akada and Kutsuwa that have been in existence since long time ago in Tsushima City, Aichi Prefecture.
The opinion that karinto originated from nanbangashi (a variety of sweets derived from Portuguese or Spanish recipes)
Additionally, there is an opinion that karinto originated from a non-perishable food for soldiers during the Sengoku period (period of warring states).
With karinto made in the Kanto region, the dough is allowed to rise for a longer period of time and the finished karinto is relatively soft and light. White sugar is sometimes used to make the syrup to coat karinto. Karinto originally became popular among the upper class people, being the forerunner of the premium karinto that is available today.
In the Kansai region, on the other hand, since the stiffer dough is used, karinto's texture is characterized to be somewhat tough. As mentioned earlier, in the Himeji region, karinto is referred to as the Banshu dagashi (cheap sweets) and has developed as an inexpensive sweet.
In some areas such as Akita Prefecture, karinto sometimes comes in strips and may be seasoned with sugar and miso (fermented soybean paste).
Variations in Ingredients Used
Sesame seeds, powdered green tea, buckwheat flour or peanuts may be mixed in the karinto dough and there are various types of karinto with its category ranging from the so-called dagashi to the premium product.