Japonais or Daquois?

Joined Oct 13, 2004
I am a current student in the Patisserie and Baking program for Le Cordon Bleu, and I just have a question the can't seemed to be answered by any of our Chefs. Can someone please tell me the history of the word Japonais. I understand that it is a nut meringue, but why is it called Japonais, which is french for "Japanese", this item has nothing to do with the Japanese to my knowledge, please let me know! thank you!

Patrick :chef:
Joined Sep 23, 2004
Patrick: Your inquisitiveness is admirable. When I studied for my diplôme from Le Cordon Bleu in 1986, the question of the etymology of the term “japonais” was not put forth in class discussion. As you’ve observed in your entry, the term means “in the Japanese style” – but that does little service to explaining the reason for using it to describe a cooked almond meringue! But japonaise also has a wider range of denotation in French cuisine: It can bear reference to such dishes as Crosnes du Japon (artichokes); Salade Japonaise (pineapple, tomato, and orange salad w/ cream & lemon juice); and Salade Francillon (mussels, potatoes marinated in wine, and truffles, bound w/ vinaigrette), likewise alternatively known as salade japonaise.

In the French pastry inventory, japonaise is used variously as an umbrella term for nut (using ground almonds or almond ‘flour’) meringues (including, e.g., dacquoise & free-standing discs), broyage, and succès (the classic meringue layer gâteau). But I’ve never seen the term applied in any way to a vacherin! “Japonaise” is described as a modern example of meringue in Alan Davidson’s The Oxford Companion to Food: “where ground almond is added to the egg white.” Very small meringues are called meringuettes or croquignoles.

According to Larousse Gastronomique, most dishes that are called à la japonaise, “have this in common, that Chinese (in French, called Japanese!) artichokes are included in the ingredients.” Larousse goes on to indicate that the term “is also applied to an iced bombe made of peach ice cream filled w/ tea-flavoured mousse.”

In The Professional Pastry Chef (2nd ed.), Bo Friberg provides a good introduction to meringues, albeit w/out tracing the root meaning of our term – he does supply a recipe for the batter and notes that “classic Japonaise are filled with hazelnut-flavoured buttercream.”

Like the term chinoiserie in architecture & design, used when referring to something influenced by Chinese tradition, the term japonaise may likewise refer to a Japanese culinary influence.

Two months ago, I made a Framboise-flavoured cheesecake layered between two rounds of japonaise meringue incorporating toasted almonds & hazelnuts finely ground w/ cornstarch & sugar.

You may like to read a somewhat meandering, and not entirely satisfying,
thread of discussion re japonaise.
Joined Jul 28, 2001
WOW! what a great reply. All I can add that any French mentor I had called just about anything with nuts in merengue that was more dried then baked as japonais
Joined Jan 5, 2001
French termionology predates political correctness. For example, they have a pastry called, well, let's just say it's the French version of the "n" word, yet it has no root in African culture. Names were chosen not for the origin or inspiration, but often because of what it reminded people of on the surface, given all the stereotypes of the time. If something was dark or had coconut in it, or both, it would be called Congolais. Same way the china cap or chinois got its name.

My guess is that japonaise was reminiscent of a shoji screen because it was light, opaque yet had a transparency to it and a crispness.
Joined Sep 23, 2004
Anneke's shoji-screen speculation has some reasonable merit – but, I think it falls short of explicating why a meringue containing ground nuts should be so distinguished from other meringues as to resemble a fragile boudoir screen.

Consider the line of reasoning in my newest conjecture: Sharon Tyler Herbst in the Food Lovers’ Companion [2nd ed.], informs the reader that Chinese artichoke (aka Japanese artichoke, knotroot and chorogi) has a sweet nutty flavour. Ah, that may be the key to solving this mystery! As I mentioned in my previous entry, when French cookery indicates that a dish is to be prepared à la Japonaise, it means that ii generally would contain chorogi -- i.e., the Japanese artichoke. So, it seems that the internal cross-referencing is sound: a nutty flavour reminiscent of freshly prepared chorogi qualifies a meringue to be called Le Japonaise.

Incidentally, the manufacture of the first meringues was sometime during the 17th century; but scholars know little about the etymology of the word. A manuscript of this time mentions meringue made like a pastille of beaten egg whites, sugar, orange flowers, and musks. We can, with good reason, accept that the town of Meiringen played a logical role in christening the confection.
Joined Nov 1, 2018
The "Dacquoise", also known under the names of "Succès" or "Progrès" is a base very classic for entremets (desserts).
It is a meringue base with powdered almonds, powdered hazelnuts or both, 1/2 almond and 1/2 hazelnut.

Traditionally, the "Dacquoise" is the hazelnut version, the "Succès" is the almond version, and the "Progrès" is the version half hazelnut and half almond but in practice, we often hear speaking of Dacquoise - Amande or Dacquoise - amande-noisette.

The other variation called "Japonais" is made with the same nut base of choice but the sugar quantity is only of 40g for 4 egg whites instead of 100 g in the traditional "Dacquoise", "Succès" and "Progrès".

Traditional recipe:
- 4 egg whites
- 100 g de sucre glace (powdered sugar)
- 100 g de powdered almond, hazelnut or half and half)
- 20 g de flour

My favorite version of this cake was called "la Mascotte" and was made by Mr. Bigey who had his pastry shop and tea room in Luxeuil-Les-Bains, France.
it consisted of three layers of hazelnut japonais with a kirsh flavored butter cream almond green colored in between the layers and around and on top of cake.
It was decorated with rosettes of the same buttercream topped with mimosa candies that are bright yellow little balls of sweeteness looking like the fragrant Mimosa blooms from the south of France. Candied violettes were delicately placed on top of the cake to contrast with the green and yellow while toasted slivered almonds surrounded the cake. Finally a darker green marzipan flattened in the shape of a scroll was placed on top with "la mascotte" written in contrasting yellow icing. It was very pleasing to the eyes and absolutely delicious, yet relatively light and not overly sweet.

I hope this make things easier to understand.
I am not a chef, only a French amateur with some cooking experience and a great respect and admiration for professionals.

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