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 of Azuki red bean paste “Anko (餡子)” that has been cooked with water, sweetened with sugar, and solidified with agar or “Kanten (寒天)”.
Yokan, also written as Youkan, 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, basic form is Neri Yokan.
Since the main ingredients in Yokan are Anko and Kanten, the firm jelly-like cake is mostly inexpensive and casually eaten in Japan, typically as an afternoon snack with green tea.
Therefore, supermarkets and convenience stores in Japan carry 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)
Ogura Yokan is also one of the most common Yokan varieties, but I wasn’t sure how it differs from Neri Yokan simply because they look like the same thing.
As a matter of fact, they are very similar in taste, texture, and appearance, so I thought I wanted to know how they differ.
After sampling, in addition to checking ingredient lists of the two, I researched online and found out that “Ogura (小倉)” in the name of Ogura Yokan probably stands for “Ogura An (小倉餡)“.
Specifically, based on these 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. 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.