Zenzai vs Oshiruko: 2 Types of Japanese Red Bean Soup

During cold winter months, we Japanese often have various “mochi (餅)” dishes with baked or steamed sticky rice cakes.

Representative examples of such mochi dishes include “Zoni (雑煮)”, “Zenzai (ぜんざい)”, “Oshiruko (おしるこ)” or “Shiruko (汁粉)”, and these 3 easy treats whose recipes I introduced before.

Among them, Zenzai is a Japanese red bean soup nearly identical to Oshiruko.

The Difference between Zenzai and O-Shiruko

Kansai-Style Zenzai with Cooked MochiKansai-style Zenzai

Zenzai and Oshiruko are both traditionally made by simmering red beans (typically Azuki beans), sweetened with sugar, and often served with baked or steamed mochi rice cakes.

Then, what is the difference between these 2 red bean soups?

Zenzai (ぜんざい)

Kanto-Style Zenzai with Cooked MochiKanto-style Zenzai

In the Kanto region around Tokyo, Zenzai generally refers to a little moist, sweet red bean paste itself, whereas, in the Kansai region around Osaka, the hot soup using chunky, coarse sweet red bean paste called “Tsubu-An (粒餡)” is referred to as Zenzai.

In Kansai, the Kanto-version Zenzai, the dish mainly consisting of a little moist sweet red bean paste is known as “Kameyama (亀山)” or “Ogura (小倉)”, by the way.

Oshiruko (おしるこ)

Kansai-Style Oshiruko with Cooked MochiKansai-style Oshiruko

In Kanto, Oshiruko refers to sweet red bean soup in general. On the other hand, in Kansai, Oshiruko refers to the soup made with smooth sweet red bean paste called “Koshi-An (漉し餡)“.

Comparison Table 

Lastly, to make it easier to understand, here is the comparison table of the difference between Zenzai and Oshiruko red bean soups.

Region Zenzai Oshiruko
Kanto A little moist sweet red bean paste itself Sweet red bean soup
Kansai Red bean soup with Tsubu-An paste Red bean soup with Koshi-An paste

(Reference Page: Wikipedia ぜんざい )


Hi, I'm Tomo, a Japanese blogger living in Niigata Prefecture, Japan. For the purpose of enriching your life, I would like to introduce things about Japan on this blog, especially unique Japanese products, cooking recipes, cultures, and facts and trivia.

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