One of the biggest expectation for coming to Japan is tasting delicious Japanese food. Sushi, Tempura, Sashimi are some of the most famous Japanese food, but there are a kind of food you better not to miss: desserts. I’m sure you know about matcha tea and matcha kit-kat, or matcha ice cream. There are more. I will introduce 5 Japanese desserts you must try in Japan.
Characteristics of Traditional Japanese Desserts
First of all, you better know some characteristics of Japanese desserts, wagashi.
1. Many of them use “Anko”, red bean paste for sweetness
“Anko” is the most common ingredients that are used in Japanese desserts. After boiling and mashing red beans, it is sweetened with sugar or honey. There are “Tsubu-an”, which is mashed roughly and “Koshi-an”, which is mashed more throughly and smooth. Sometimes Shiro-an, white anko, are used as well.
2. Taste is very sweet which makes best match with bitter green tea and matcha tea
Japanese desserts are made to enjoy with tea, thus many of them are very sweet that some of you may not be able to eat without bitter tea. But don’t worry. Ingredients are all natural and Japanese desserts are said to be low fat and healthy even though the sweetness they have.
3. Beautiful shape and color with highlight of the season
Similar to Japanese dishes such as kaiseki, Japanese desserts emphasizes visual beauty. With reference to the season, wagashi never makes people bored and gives us fresh experience and surprises us all the time.
Now, let me introduce my recommendations of Japanese desserts.
1. Taiyaki (たい焼き)
Taiyaki is a fish shaped dessert which outside is similar to pancake and inside there are anko. This is one of the most common everyday dessert for Japanese. You can find number of Taiyaki stands in Tokyo.
Sometimes there are varieties in what they put inside Taiyaki, such as custard cream, chocolate cream, mochi, etc.
More about Taiyaki: 5 Best Taiyaki Stands in Tokyo, Recommended by a Japanese Eater
2. Dorayaki (どら焼き)
Some of them might be familiar of this from cartoon “Doraemon”. Dora-chan from Doraemon, loves dorayaki. Ingredients are basically similar to taiyaki, but they are not made from fish shaped iron plate. Anko is put between small pancakes. This is easy to make at home with pancake mix. You just have to make small pancake and buy some azuki paste. You can also find this in any convenience stores and supermarkets.
3. Yokan (羊羹)
Yokan is a thick jelly like dessert made from bean paste, agar and sugar. They look dark but it’s the color of bean paste. Usually sold in large stick, so you slice at home.
Many long standing Japanese desserts shops produce seasonal yokan, and they are just beautiful.
This “Amanogawa-yokan” is sold during summer. The blue color makes us imagine the starry sky in summer.
If you are not able to finish the whole stick, if you go to convenience stores and supermarkets, you can find small stick of yokan. But they usually good for a year or so, buying beautiful yokan back home might be a nice thing to do.
4. Monaka (最中)
Monaka is made with azuki filling put between two thin crisp wafers. Ingredients of wafers are mochi. Filling has some varieties, sometimes it is sesame paste, sometimes there are dango or mochi together with azuki paste.
Also monaka ice cream is very popular, which have ice-cream inside instead of azuki paste. Also there are varieties in the shape of wafers, such as triangle, circle, cherry blossoms, japanese bells… etc.
You can also find this in any convenience stores and supermarkets.
5. Nerikiri (練り切り)
This is one of the most beautiful Japanese dessert. These neatly made dessert varies depending on seasons. The ingredients are usually shiro-an, white bean paste, and gyuhi, softer mochi.
Nerikiri is perfect match with matcha tea. Enjoy seasonal shape and have a slow and calm Japanese tea time.