If you are familiar with Oahu and the Honolulu area, you probably know about Ala Moana. There are so many unique Asian and Hawaiian treasures at Ala Moana. My favorites include the island-style tea shop Lupicia, a colorful mochi stand in their food court called Kansai Yamato, and finally Shirokiya, a Japanese department store with the most amazing selection of kokeshi dolls.
Kokeshi are wooden lacquered Japanese dolls painted in colorful kimonos. The kimonos range from bright and vibrant to earth-toned and natural looking. As they are entirely made of wood, the dolls are often quite heavy. They sometimes have an egg-like shape, which is exactly why I ended up creating these exotic Kokeshi Doll Easter Eggs this year!
What’s intriguing about these Kokeshi Easter Eggs is that they are dyed and decorated with common everyday spices and 2 of my favorite teas, pu-erh and matcha!
Pu-erh Tea is a very dark fermented Chinese black tea, also known as bo-lay in Cantonese. Many consider pu-erh tea an acquired taste because of its earthy and slightly musty richness. This is a very dark chocolate colored tea, making it ideal for dyeing eggs. Using pu-erh to dye eggs gives them a peachy flesh skin tone coloring within a few minutes of boiling. In a pinch, you can use some rustic brown eggs instead, but since I am never short on tea, I went ahead boiled my white eggs in a concentrated pu-erh tea steep.
Thanks to our friends over in England and Spain, mustard and paprika become the basis for clothing our egg dolls. The spices give off the most brilliant shades of sunshine yellow and fiery red in the kimonos, especially when they’ve bloomed after being mixed with a bit of corn syrup. And as you may already know from my Matcha Monday posts, there is nothing better than getting that perfect shade of leaf green color from a good-quality matcha powder.
After the corn syrup paint hardens to a lacquer like shine, it’s time to embellish! Accessories complete any look, so I’ve dotted pastel flower sprinkles on the kimonos, attaching them with tiny dabs of the same corn syrup used to create the kimonos. And if you aren’t planning on eating these on the same day, use hollowed out eggs to decorate with (tea dye just the shells), as the corn syrup tends to soften when taken in and out of the fridge (i.e. because of condensation).
With Hawaii on my mind, I added one last flower sprinkle to the left hairline of each Kokeshi Egg. In Hawaiian culture, a flower over the left ear means that the gal is taken–that is, married or no longer available. Feel free to switch sides!
I can’t wait to visit Shirokiya in Honolulu this weekend! Kimonos and kokeshi dolls will be in plenty, and I’ll probably be looking at the beautiful Japanese fabrics and designs thinking of different ways to dress up these Kokeshi Easter Eggs next year.
And as a side note, if you love Japanese tea and culture like I do, my blogger friend, Buri-chan, over at San’in Monogatari has an incredible blog. She just finished participating in the 2014 World Kimono Competition last week, where according to Buri-chan, casual, formal (tomesode), and flashier (furisode) style kimonos were each judged in different competitions. Buri-chan tied for 4th place at the event…check out her gorgeous outfit here! I’m beginning to wonder if my kokeshi dolls would be cute enough to enter the competition?
Add a bit of Hawaiian flair to your Easter Egg hunt this year! Natural looking and beach ready, these babes will add just the right touch of sunshine to all your Easter celebrations!
Kokeshi Doll Easter Eggs
Makes 8 eggs.
What You’ll Need:
2 Tbsp loose pu-erh tea
4 cups of water
medium pot for boiling eggs
edible food color marker
1 Tbsp corn syrup, plus extra for glueing on hair, eyes, and flower sprinkles
matcha green tea powder, paprika powder, and mustard powder
small bowl or teacup
16 black sesame seeds
1 Tbsp of dark or semi-sweet chocolate chips
small bowl filled up 2″ with rice to help with decorating (optional)
1.) Boil the Eggs.
Bring water to a boil over high heat and throw in the tea to steep. Allow the water to continue to boil while the tea is steeping. When tea looks dark brown, add in eggs and boil for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, turn heat off and let eggs steep an extra 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove eggs from the tea steep onto a tea towel and wipe dry. Allow to cool completely before decorating.
2..) Draw the Lines.
There are 3 simple lines you need to draw to create the kokeshi doll.
Using a black food marker, draw a “Y” on the center of an egg. As you can see, it doesn’t need to be perfect.
Now draw a sweeping hairline/left side hair part on kokeshi above the “Y” and join the edges.
Turn the egg around to its back side. Draw a big “U” shape, joining the tips of the “U” shape to the point where the “Y” met the hairline that you drew before.
3.) Make the Kimonos.
Mix the matcha, mustard, or paprika with corn syrup to create a thick-like edible paint. The ratio is 1 tsp of corn syrup to a 1/2 tsp of the powdered tea or spice. Gently use your finger to mix a bit of the tea/spice into the corn syrup a little at a time. The thicker the “paint” the more color the kimonos will have.
Use your finger to apply the tea/spice paint in an even, thin layer in gentle swirl motions. The kimono should be painted below the “Y” area previously drawn.
Keep the “face” area (where my thumb is) as clean as possible.
In an egg crate or some rice in a small bowl, prop the egg upside down to allow for kimono to dry. This should take about 2 hours.
4.) Make the Hair.
With a fully dried kimono, now create a full looking hairdo for the kokeshi.
Place black sanding sugar in a small bowl or teacup. Paint the area between the hairline and the “U” shape with a thin layer of plain corn syrup. You can see below that the kimono paint dripped onto the hair area, which will be easily covered!
Dip the just painted, sticky hair section of kokeshi in the black decorating sugar. If it is easier for you, you can just paint one side of the hair at a time. Right side of hair…
Left side of hair…
Feel free to use extra dabs of corn syrup and black sugar to fill in any bald spots.
5.) Make a Face. Your kokeshi is now ready to have black sesame eyes.
Use a toothpick to dab a bit of corn syrup onto the location for the eyes on the egg. You can use the same toothpick now to pick up a black sesame and attach it to the egg.
The Kokeshi Egg Doll is almost finished!
6.) Give Them Some Style.
Outline the “Y” on the kimonos with melted chocolate, applied in a thin line with a toothpick.
Add some flower sprinkles to the kimono to create a fun print. And if you are wanting for them to go Hawaiian style, add a flower sprinkle to the right or left side of their hairline. Attach sprinkles with tiny dabs of corn syrup.