My husband and I received these delicate, delicious candies as a gift this past weekend.
Made from starch syrup, sugar, glutinous rice, and starch, Shimobashira (霜ばしら) are a traditional Japanese candy which are only sold between October and April in Miyagi Prefecture’s Sendai City.
Shimobashira means “frost pillar” and the candies are meant to resemble the small pillars of frost that form near the foot of Mount Zao during the winter season. In English, frost pillars are often called Needle Ice. They are formed when soil temperature is above freezing (0°C/32°F) and air’s surface temperature is below freezing.
The fragile candies are packed in rakugan flour—a mixture of sugar and rice flour—in order to keep them moist and to prevent breakage. The flour can be lightly heated (the rakugan should not be melted), added to a few pinches of salt, and then used as a topping for the candy, however, Shimobashira can also be enjoyed without the rakugan flour.
Here is an example of real “needle ice”. I found this image at the following website.