Japanese do not eat what Westerners call desserts. Typically their meals end with fresh, seasonal fruit. This does not mean that the Japanese do not enjoy sweets. In fact, they like their sweets so much that they devote time between meals to sweets and tea.
Ingredients common in traditional Japanese sweets are rice flour, azuki beans, and sugar. Japanese sweets tend to be lower in fat than Western sweets because they rarely use milk and butter in their sweets.
Many traditional Japanese sweets are made with a sweet azuki bean paste called Anko. Two traditional Japanese sweets that contain Anko are Mizu-Yokan and Dorayaki. It is very easy to make Anko.
1 1/2 cups dried adzuki beans
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1. Place dried adzuki beans in a large pot.
2. Cover beans with water and let soak overnight.
3. Heat beans on high until they begin to boil.
4. Reduce the heat and allow beans to simmer for ten minutes.
5. Drain the beans and return them to the pot.
6. Add five cups of water to the pot and heat the beans back up to a boil.
7. Reduce the heat and allow beans to simmer for one hour.
8. Beans are ready when they will squish between your fingers when you squeeze them.
9. Drain the beans and return them to the pot.
10. Mash the beans and add the sugar and salt, mixing well.
11. Stir beans over medium heat until they have thickened, up to 30 minutes.
12. Remove from heat and cool.
Anko can be kept refrigerated in an airtight container for three days; otherwise what isn’t used should be frozen.
Mizu-Yokan is a traditional Japanese sweet that is similar in consistency to gelatin. It is made from agar-agar which is a gelatin that comes from seaweed. It is a very light and refreshing sweet which is enjoyed during the summertime.
1 stick kanten (agar-agar)
1 1/4 cup water
1 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cup Anko
1. Put the kanten is a dish and cover with water.
2. Soak the kanten for an hour.
3. Squeeze as much water as you can from the kanten and tear it into small pieces.
4. Put the pieces of kanten into a saucepan.
5. Add the water and heat on low until the kanten has completely dissolved.
6. Add the sugar and stir until it has completely dissolved.
7. Add the Anko and mix well while allowing the mixture to come to a boil.
8. Reduce the heat and simmer while constantly stirring until the mixture has thickened.
9. Pour the mixture into a flat, rectangular container (size based on how thick you want your Mizu-Yokan).
10. Cool until set and then cut into small squares to serve.
Dorayaki would remind you of pancakes that have been put together with a filling, similar to a sandwich. They can have different fillings, but the traditional filling for Dorayaki is Anko. Dorayaki is meant to be enjoyed at room temperature and is typically served with tea.
1 1/4 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 cups Anko
1. Beat sugar, eggs, and honey in a mixing bowl.
2. Sift flour with baking powder into a separate bowl.
3. Slowly add flour mixture to the egg mixture.
4. Add water and mix until smooth.
5. Heat a griddle to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and pour small amounts of the batter onto the griddle. You want the pancakes to be about 3 inches in diameter.
6. When the pancakes start to bubble turn them over and brown the other side.
7. Continue until all the batter has been used.
8. Spread Anko onto half of the pancakes and cover with the other half, forming sandwiches.
Mizu-Yokan and Dorayaki are only two of the traditional Japanese sweets using Anko, but they are both very popular and easy to make.