Mochi and Anko: and other Japanese sweets

This is another guest post from my friend, Yuko (@guideyu and @guideyu_) from Guide-Yu, the super personalized Japan tour guide!

Yuko is awesome. She’s Japanese – but she also is an avid Kabuki fan, makes Japanese sweets in her spare time, and even dances traditional Japanese buyou! A true fan of Japanese culture. Today she discusses mochi and anko, one of the most common combinations found in traditional Japanese sweets. Be sure to check out her previous post about Japanese sweets and their relation to the seasons. Enjoy!

The combination of 餅 (mochi / rice cake) and 餡 (an or anko / sweet red bean paste) is a very typical example of Japanese sweets. First, here are some descriptions of each component.

餅 (mochi / rice cake) : Made of sticky rice by steaming the rice and then pounding it into a soft dough. While freshly-made mochi is the best, conveniently sliced and packaged mochi blocks are available in any grocery store in Japan for daily use. Japanese people usually boil the mochi blocks or toast them.

餡 (an or anko / sweet red bean paste) : Made of Azuki [wiki] red beans which are boiled, mashed, and then sweetened with sugar. There are different styles used to mash the beans. When the beans are roughly mashed, leaving big chunks of Azuki in the paste, the style is called つぶあん (tsubu-an); you can enjoy the original texture of the beans together with the bean skins (my favorite!). Another type is called こしあん (koshi-an) in which the paste is strained to remove the skins. This gives the bean paste a smoother and more elegant look-and-feel.

Zenzai (or Shiruko)

Toasted Mochi with Anko (tsubu-an); an example of quick and easy おやつ (oyatsu), or light snack, usually eaten at 3pm at “oyatsu time.”

These types of simple sweets are eaten year-round, usually at home with family, with close friends, or even while home alone.

Other oyatsu classics.

団子 (dango / sticky rice dumplings)

Dango! Made by Yuko's mom!

どらやき (dorayaki / pancakes with anko filling)

Dorayaki! Made by Yuko's mom!

*Yes! If you know Doraemon, dorayaki is his favorite food!

On the other hand, when we say 和菓子 (wagashi / Japanese confection), we often refer to the more elaborate wagashi which were originally developed to treat guests attending a formal tea ceremony.

As I explained in my previous post, the color and shape of wagashi typically reflect the sense of the seasons.

Wagashi of the season; Iris Laevigata: Made by Yuko's mom!

I’ll talk more about these seasonal wagashi next time!

There you have it! Yuko’s mom is amazing — I encourage you to learn how to make Japanese wagashi as well. I’ll eat them.

Until next time!

The anko image used in this post is from a free Japanese image website. The others are taken by Yuko!