Ogura Yokan: A Japanese Sweet Azuki Red Bean Cake
“Yokan (羊羹)” is one of the most common Wagashi (traditional Japanese sweets) whose origin is said to date back to about 700 years ago. It is a simple jelly-like dessert made by solidifying sweet Azuki red bean paste or “Anko (餡子)” with agar or “Kanten (寒天)”.
Yokan, also written as Youkan using Roman letters, mainly comes in 4 types, “Neri Yokan (煉羊羹)”, “Mizu Yokan (水羊羹)”, “Mushi Yokan (蒸羊羹)”, and “Decchi Yokan (丁稚羊羹)”, and the most common and basic form is Neri Yokan.
Since the basic ingredients contained in Yokan are Anko red bean paste sweetened with sugar and Kanten agar, the firm jelly-like cake is mostly inexpensive and casually eaten in Japan typically as an accompaniment for hot green tea.
Therefore, most supermarkets and convenience stores in Japan stock various kinds of Yokan, out of which today I actually bought “Ogura Yokan (小倉羊羹)” and Neri Yokan.
Ogura Yokan (小倉羊羹)
Actually, Ogura Yokan is also one of the most common Yokan varieties, but I didn’t clearly know how it is different from Neri Yokan. As you can see in the photos above, Ogura Yokan and Neri Yokan look kind of like the same thing.
As a matter of fact, they are very similar in taste, texture, and appearance. So in addition to checking the ingredient lists of the two, I did some online research and found out that “Ogura (小倉)” in Ogura Yokan probably refers to “Ogura An (小倉餡)“.
According to the ingredient lists, the Ogura Yokan consists of unsweetened Azuki red bean paste “Nama An (生餡)”, sweet Azuki red beans “Amanatto (甘納豆)“, and Kanten agar. In other words, it is made from chunky Azuki red bean paste.
Meanwhile, the Neri Yokan is made from sugar, smooth Nama An or unsweetened “Koshi An (漉し餡)“, and Kanten. In brief, it seems that Ogura Yokan is made with Ogura An (chunky Azuki red bean paste) or the like, while Neri Yokan is made with Koshi An or smooth Azuki red bean paste.