Japanese New-Year count down (-2)

Today sweet beans for Japanese New-Year feast. The black soy beans are not only pretty, they are precious too. More expensive, longer to cook. And their egg shape is in the fertility theme of Asian New Year. Another thing is “mame” the name for beans is homonym with “being dedicated at work”

kuromame (sweet black soy beans)

I cooked them a few minutes in a syrup of sugar and grated fresh ginger.

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warabiiiiii mochiiii, ikaga desuka ? Japanese Summer’s snack

A plate of warabi mochi, a long time favorite Japanese sweet. There are still people with wood carts that they roll, or more often these days small vans, that pass in residential towns at the hour of tea break. They shoot “warabiiiiii mochiiii….” to call customers. Kids, older kids rush out of their houses to buy some.

1.catch a bit with the pick

2. Roll it in a mix of kinako and sugar (or kinako and kuro mitsu black sugar syrup)

3. Guess !
I really don’t know. Maybe it’s decorative. Or they give them to the cat.
I ate them. All. Mmmmmm ! It’s delicious, fresh and nutty, not too sweet (you may skip the sugar).

Well, there was a point zero.
0. Mix about 30 g (2/3 tbs) of warabi-ko (bracken starch) and a cup of water. Cook while stiring with a wooden spatula. First you have a white liquid, then a white paste, then a transparent paste (avoid doing it in a white sauce pan). When it’s all clear, shape balls and throw in iced water -not easy, you should train a lot to become a pro.
Short-cut : tranfer all the paste into a wet mold, let cool 1-2 hours. They can be chilled in the fridge, or -more traditional- at room temperature. Before serving, cut in cubes in a plate of water as you want them wet.

Kinako is powdered grilled soy bean. I use natural cane sugar. Half/half is classic. For me 20% sugar is enough.

So if you can get warabi starch and kinako from you local Asian store, try that some hot day.

other Japanese sweets


Kuromame are Japanese black beans, black soy beans.
As you can sea, I eat beans, many sorts, very often. That’s a way to make my diet (=eating style) healthier. I don’t ban anything, but I add good things. Beans bring many useful minerals and vitamins, proteins, complex carbs.
They are not so easy to digest, so it’s good to have small quantities, often. I know some people think soy is evil. It’s a fact that soy beans are toxic… like all beans, and need to be cooked properly to reduce that toxicity. It’s also true soy has those “hormones” , but negative effects have not been proven for grown up eating soy beans in reasonable amounts -it’s not about feeding infants with soy milk in the bottle or having soy as your unique source of proteins. A little dish of beans added to most meal has been a Japanese habit for over thousand years, with a very positive result.

The kuromame (black soy beans) cost more than the daizu (regular soy beans). Those I see in stores are always produced in Japan, while regular soy beans are often imported. That many explain the different pricing. But if you get them dry and cook them yourself, the cost is still reasonable. They are said to be healthier than the others too.
Cooking them is quite long, that can take 3 or 4 hours, after soaking them 24 hours. The time is hard to “predict” as it depends on the size of beans and their age (this year’s crop, or older…).

Process :
-Anyway, rinse them and soak them. You can add baking soda or not.
-Bring them to boil, you use the soaking water or change. In the first case, color will be more vivid. Boil them at least 10 minutes and take away the foam on surface (the toxic substance of beans).
-Continue on low heat, in a crock pot if you want. Beans are cooked when they are soft.
I cook a batch of 250g without any flavoring, and I freeze most in cups (silicone cupcake molds) for further use.

Japanese most common recipe is to cook them with sugar (same weight as the beans) added from the soaking water, or from the low heat simmering… or like I do later. The sweet black beans are one item of osechi ryori, the New Year good luck dishes.
For savory recipes, you can add a piece of kombu seaweed in the water.

Osechi ryori compilation

As a side dish for kare raisu (Japanese curry)

Black rice, same recipe as seki-han (red rice), but with kuromame
seki-han, red rice

Black rice – Red Cabbage

I cooked them a few minutes in a syrup of sugar and grated fresh ginger.

Here, I added a syrup of kurozato (black sugar). And they are floating with black sesame on top a bowl of sweet potato okayu.
December okayu

Easy making of koshian anko (fine textured azuki bean paste)

Azuki (adzuki) beans.

Definition :
Anko is a sweet paste, made from these small Asian beans. Anko is one of the most common ingredients for making Japanese sweets, so this is a basic.

Ingredients :
Azuki beans. Sugar, syrup or any sweetener you like.
Other types of beans can be prepared the same way. White beans (similar to “Navy beans”) are often used to make the white “an”.

I was not too happy with the color of my photos… it varies indeed, it’s nicer in reality than on my shots. What matters is the texture, so I covered with fancy filters.

MAKING ANKO (tsubuan and koshian)

Rinse. Cover with 4 volumes of water. Soak one night (in the fridge in Summer).

Drain (optional, you can keep the soaking water, final color may differ). Transfer into a pasta pot with plenty of water, bring to boil. Pass to medium heat. Take away the white foam. Cover and cook (medium heat) until beans are soft. Depending on quantity that takes me 40 min to 1 hour. Drain.
Rem : You can cook them in a steam-cooker if you have a functional one, it’s faster. You can use a crock-pot, but boiling the beans about 10 minutes is necessary to eliminate toxic substance, so if your crock-pot cannot boil, start in a pot and transfer after taking away the foam.

Paste in a mortar (or with a fork).

This is tsubuan (chunky bean paste). In Kansai, this is the favorite texture.

Make it finer this way :

This is koshian (fine bean paste), it’s the prefered “anko” in Kanto area. Well, both types are available everywhere in Japan.

Sweetening (easy way) :

Add syrup to either tsubuan or koshian. I use already prepared kuro mitsu, black sugar syrup. You can make a syrup with sugar and water. Make it at your taste. You can freeze the paste.

Rem : In some recipes, you add lots of sugar (same weight as beans) and simmer it with the beans before pasting. You obtain a “azuki jam”. You can buy it already made. It can be stored without freezing. The inconvenient is it’s much sweeter.

Koshian (fine paste), prepared as mizu-yokan. This time, the color is more chocolaty, that depends on the beans. I have had redder ones, but these brown ones are particularly taste.

Mizu-yokan and nashi

Wagashi Saga : Photo-menu of all Japanese sweet posts.

Cubes of refreshment : heart-heaven in black sweetness

This style of dessert is popular in Japanese Summer. This is my Southern fruit version.
It’s hot, you definitely don’t want any of the classical desserts, cakes, cream, even ice-creams. This is really light. Then it helps your digestion when weather is weird and makes your inside react weirdly.

The cubes are made of agar-agar seaweed (kanten). As a cooled jelly, they shaped in noodles or squares or whatever. They are called tokoroten, 心天, a cute name “heart heaven”. They are nearly flavorless. Served very fresh. Once, I’ve made some from scratches… I mean really, from fishing the seaweed, washing it, cooking it. Well I’ll show you the final part some day.
As you see there are a few sweet beans too.

You can add fruits. I’ve added pinapple. Then bananas. I eat bananas everyday. I try to have 4 fruits a day, and usually there is a banana in that. They are really convenient. Very cheap -especially since a TV starlet made them popular as diet food, rich in potassium (I fear cramps) and caloric (I need to eat more, really). And that’s not a bad import. They come by boat, not too much waste, quite ecological. Japan has to get food from abroad, that’s my share.

Then, the flavor comes from the “kuro mitsu”, the black sugar syrup. It’s very strong, not much is needed. I added a few sesame seeds.

Another version with cherries :

Second half of June 2010 : Illustrated Menu

First half of June 2010 : Illustrated Menu