5 Popular Japanese Sweets with “Anko” Red Bean Paste
Beans are a crucial ingredient in Japanese cuisine. For example, the 2 seasonings that represent Japan, miso, and soy sauce are made from soybeans, while in Wagashi, “Anko (餡子)“, or sweetened Azuki red bean paste, is an indispensable part.
The sweet red bean paste, Anko is roughly divided into two types; the smooth one called “Koshian (こしあん)” and the chunky, coarse one called “Tsubuan (つぶあん)”, and both are often used in confections in Japan.
In fact, there are many varieties of Wagashi confections made with Anko bean paste, out of which today I will introduce 5 most beloved ones for those who have never tried the sweet red bean paste.
Yokan (羊羹) is a traditional Japanese sweet made by solidifying sweet, smooth red bean paste using agar called “Kanten (寒天)”. There are 4 major types of Yokan and the most common variety is “Neri Yokan (練り羊羹)”. Neri Yokan has a texture like firm tofu and features gentle, refined sweetness from Anko.
Dorayaki (どら焼き) is a traditional Japanese confection known as Doraemon’s yummy buns. It consists of two baked pancakes with sweet red bean paste in the middle. Since the dough of the cake is made with honey, it holds moderate moisture.
Oshiruko (おしるこ) is a traditional, simple Japanese red bean soup made by simmering Azuki red beans in water sweetened with sugar. Often served with “Mochi (餅)” sticky plain glutinous rice cake, it is a long-time favorite winter soup dish of us Japanese.
Manju (饅頭) is a traditional Japanese steamed bun typically with a sweet red bean paste filling. Manju comes in many types and flavors, but the most common variety is “Cha Manju (茶饅頭)” whose dough is made with wheat flour, brown sugar, and baking soda. The steamed bun is soft and fluffy and matches perfectly with its Anko filling.
Daifuku (大福) is a type of “Mochigashi (餅菓子)” confection. It is a soft, small, round white rice cake filled with sweet red bean paste. Daifuku is also available in various types, but the most popular variety is “Ichigo Daifuku (苺大福)” with a strawberry-Anko filling.