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Zensai with Mochi

Posted on February 1, 2010 at 2:20 AM

Sweet azuki beans soup with Toasted Mochi

I realized that during my first year of blogging, I only made six dessert entries.  This is very little for someone who loves sweets.  There is a reason.  At home in Santa Monica, noone cares for sweets but me.  So making desserts is not on my priority list. But here in Tokyo, I practically live in my sister Fuyuko's pastry atelier. Everyone takes desserts seriously so if I make a batch of something, there are plenty of people willing to taste my creations. 

One of my favorite winter dessert or snack food is a warm Japanese sweet bean soup called Zensai.  Since I had some leftover mochi from New Years, I decided to make Zensai and top it with some toasted mochi.   Zensai is a perfect cold weather soup that is made with Azuki beans, water, and sugar.   When you go to a Anmitsuya (a Japanese style dessert shop), Zensai is usually served with grilled mochi on top, and pickles on the side.   in Kagurazaka, Tokyo makes a killer Zensai. I visit Kinozen at least once or twice during my stay in Tokyo to get my Zenzai fix and some.  Kinozen serves Zensai with moch; they also serve it with sweetened chestnuts, Kuri zensai, and Millet gruel, Awa zensai.  Awa like mochi is also gooey in texture. The Japanese find this texture very comforting.   


Mochi- it has long shelf life if you keep it in the package. 
Grilled they soften and pop up like popcorn.  It's great with
soysauce,  and in soups like Zensai.

Simmer the beans  gently


Makes 8 servings


300 grams azuki beans  

300 grams white granulated sugar  or more

1 Tbs soy sauce  

4 pieces of Mochi, cut in half


Rinse the beans in cold water several times. Soak overnight in plenty of cold water to soften.  If the beans are very fresh, no soaking is necessary.

Discard soaking water, rinse and cover beans with fresh cold water.  In a heavy saucepan, bring the beans and water to a boil.  Drain.  Start again with fresh water and bring to a boil and then turn heat to a gentle simmer until the beans are cooked throughly, being careful not to overcook or burn them. The beans should be submerged in the cooking liquid and never exposed. It will take about 90 minutes to two hours to cook the beans. Test one bean and squash it with your finger.  If it squashes easily, it is ready.


When the beans are cooked, pour off the excess cooking water leaving just enough to cover the beans. Add 1/2 the white sugar and the soy sauce. Bring to the boil and then turn down the heat to a simmer for about 15 minutes.  Add the remaining sugar and cook for another 15 minutes. Taste and make adjustments.  If more sugar is needed it can be added at this point.  Simmer for a few more minutes and turn heat off.  The azuki beans are ready to be served but it's best if you let them rest in the saucepan overnight. 


When ready to serve, cut the mochi pieces in half and grill under a broiler or a toaster oven until they pop. Heat the zenzai until very hot. Place a piece of grilled mochi in individual serving bowls. Ladle the hot zenzai on top. Serve immediately.


This recipe makes about 8-12  servings.   

Note: If the soup is too thick, you can dilute it with a  little water.  If it is too thin, you can

cook it and thicken the soup. This is a matter of preference.  It should have the consistency of a thick soup.


Categories: Japan, Dessert

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