What exactly is Anko or An in Japanese food culture?
Typically made from boiled Azuki red beans sweetened with sugar, the paste “Anko (餡子)” is an indispensable part of “Wagashi (和菓子)” traditional Japanese sweets.
Sometimes, Anko is simply called “An (餡)”, but until now I didn’t know what exactly An means.
The Difference between Anko and An
Tsubu An (sweet Azuki red bean paste)
According to Nihon Anko Association, it seems that until now the definition of Anko was vague and no one showed the border between Anko and An.
Therefore, it may be no wonder I didn’t clearly know how they differ from each other.
What exactly is Anko (餡子)?
The Japan Anko Association says that Anko is a paste whose ingredients are boiled down and kneaded.
Using beans, sweetening the ingredient with sugar, or having a sweet taste are sufficient conditions, not necessary conditions.
Hence, Anko is also available in no sugar varieties, and even Hummus, a chickpea-based paste that is eaten in the Middle East, can be regarded as a kind of Anko.
What exactly is An (餡)?
Meanwhile, based on the article “餡” on Japanese Wikipedia, An can be divided into 3 types.
- A paste made from boiled beans, sweet potatoes, chestnuts, or the like, sweetened with sugar and kneaded. The majority of Anko
- A salted mixture of mincemeat and finely chopped vegetables typically used as a filling for dumplings like Manju and Gyoza (potstickers)
- An meant for An-Kake dishes. The thick sauce prepared by heating water or dashi stock mixed with starch such as Katakuriko (potato starch) or Kuzuko (kudzu flour), which usually contains some meat and vegetables