Japanese sweets are up at the very top of my list when it comes to desserts. They’re so creative and pretty, and so many seem to have their own unique history or regional twist. The flavor is usually subtle with a mild sweetness, so they’re perfect if you’re not up to very sugary foods.
A lot of them have some type of filling, the most popular being the traditional sweet red bean paste or white bean paste. In the more modern versions, it’s also very common to find custard cream or chocolate cream.
The other day, I visited a nearby traditional Japanese sweets shop called Kanokoya. As soon as we stepped inside, we were offered free green tea and sweets on lacquered trays. How amazing is that?! We got to sit down and enjoy our treats while we pondered what to get.
The variety that they served us are called cha manju, which literally means, “tea sweet”. The colour comes from brown sugar or molasses, and they are filled with read bean jam that tastes just like creamy chocolate! Considering that they’re a dessert, cha manju are incredibly healthy, using no oil or eggs. They’re pretty much just flour, brown sugar, baking soda, and red beans.
I think I may need to visit again and try out the rest, but for now I settled on four types of sweets. Here’s what I got:
– A walnut bun with sweet red bean filling:
– A doughnut filled with sweet red bean paste:
– A white bun sweetened with Japanese rice wine and filled with red bean paste:
– And…a sweet, gooey rice cake with red bean paste filling, and whole red beans on the outside:
There are of course all sorts of different choices, but red bean paste just happens to be my favorite, so that may end up being a common theme throughout the rest of my trip! Just to give you an idea though, they also had orange, strawberry, banana, sweet white bean, chestnut, and sweet potato fillings.
For this visit, I just stuck to the good old fashioned hardy sweets. These are the kind that people can enjoy on a pretty much regular basis. Nothing too fancy, with simple hardy ingredients. To me, these are actually the best type, but I’m also looking forward to trying out some of the more decadent sweets that are decked out with all kinds of decorations and designs.