Although the Japanese people value tradition especially in the New Year Celebrations -like the “Osechi” feast we mentioned earlier- the Japanese people love to try new traditions from abroad as well.
Something that has caught on in Tokyo these past 5-10 years is the “galette des rois” or the “king’s cake” originally eaten in France to celebrate the Epiphany on January 6th.
In France, the “galette des rois” are enjoyed throughout January, and you can often find them alongside the buche de noel before Christmas.
At Patisserie Sourire, my favorite neighborhood cake shop, they have sold these traditional “galette des rois” since they first opened in 2005. Chef Naoyuki Okamura was the chief pattisier at the very famous French L’Osier restaurant in Ginza, Tokyo. Chef Okamura had tasted this delicious pie when he was training at several restaurants and patisserie shops in France, and he wanted to bring the tradition to Japan.
Chef Okamura’s “galette des rois” is the traditional cake from the north of France – it is a puff pastry with a crisp, golden pie with a soft frangipane center. Inside the pie you will find a feve, a small porcelain charm that is said to bring good luck. Nowadays for precautionary measures, it is customary to put almonds in the cakes instead of the porcelain feves. At family gatherings, whoever gets the piece with the almond becomes the “king (roi)” for the day, and everyone must obey the lucky person. The feves are given to them after the cake is served.
This tradition caught on very well in this New Year season when families gather together to celebrate “Oshogatsu,” the traditional Japanese New Year. After a hearty feast with “Osechi,” the “galette des rois” is a perfect dessert and game to welcome the New Year and welcome good luck with the entire family.
Since I discovered the “galette des rois” at my favorite patisserie shop in 2010, our family has been celebrating the New Year with these special pies. The “king” of 2017 was my daughter this year, and she was happy to receive the yorkshire terrier shaped feve we chose to remember our dog, Coo, who passed away a few years ago. At Sourire, they have many adorable shapes -animals, cars, fruit, vegetables…the children love to choose the feves!
I have tired these pies at different shops, but the “galette des rois” at Sourire is by far the best all around Tokyo. It has become a custom to bring this pie to all my holiday gatherings, and every single person who has had the pie stops to savour the pie.
They are only available throughout January, so it is a must-try!
153-0053 2-40-8 Gohongi Meguro Tokyo