Yokan (Japanese jelly candy) is a tasty sweet jelly made of red bean paste, sugar, and agar. This little treat has a firm texture and is formed into convenient rectangular blocks and pieces. The two significant types of yokan include mizu (water) yokan and neri (paste) yokan.
Neri yokan is relatively firmer, thanks to a higher kanten or agar powder concentration. The texture is also a bit thicker and heavier. “Mizu” means ‘water’ in Japanese, and this particular type is made using more water than usual. Mizu yokan is more popular as a Japanese summer snack because it’s lighter and often served chilled.
Though it doesn’t look as exciting and colorful as the Western-style jellies, it’s a fantastic treat for traditional Japanese sweets or wagashi. Japanese people love it with matcha (Japanese green tea), as this red bean jelly’s sweetness complements the tea’s bitterness.
Yokan is originally a Chinese jelly made using gelatin from boiling sheep meat. A Buddhist monk studying in China brought it to Japan during the Kamakura-Muromachi period, between 1185-1573. Because Buddhism forbids killing, they replaced animal-based gelatin with wheat flour and azuki beans (red beans). Later, agar was introduced to the recipe, making it plant-based and vegetarian or vegan-friendly.
Love Japanese treats like jellies and chocolate? TokyoTreat has you covered with Japanese snacks and sweets sent all the way from Japan right to your doorstep!
Of course! As discussed earlier, people make mizu yokan using red bean paste, agar, sugar, and, most importantly, water. The red bean paste can be smooth (tsubuan) or coarse (koshian).
Although people use sweet red bean paste in traditional Japanese recipes, modern versions can substitute red bean paste with other ingredients, like white kidney beans, to add variation to this age-old dessert.
This also makes it easier to make a trip to the grocery store. Typically, people mold it into a rectangular block-shaped dessert, slice it into smaller rectangles, and chill it before serving.
These days, mizu yokan comes in several flavors besides the original. You can also add chestnuts, sweet potatoes, or even different types of fruits to any jelly recipe. Green tea is also a popular flavor among lovers of this sweet.
First, soak the kanten in a bowl for 1 hour or until soft. No need to soak if you are using kanten powder. After the kanten softens, remove it from the water and squeeze it to remove excess water from the kanten.
Next, tear the kanten into small pieces. Then, add the kanten pieces or kanten powder to a small saucepan with 1¼ cup of water and bring it to a boil. Whisk it constantly to not mix too well with the water.
Once you bring it to a boil, you can turn down the heat to low. Keep whisking it on low heat until the kanten dissolves completely. Next, add sugar and mix well once the kanten dissolves entirely in the water.
Then, mix the sweet red bean paste at this stage. Stir continuously to ensure the sweet red bean paste is diluted into the water. Keep simmering it until the mixture thickens. Once the mixture thickens, remove i from the heat.
Now, pour the mixture into a nagashikan (a rectangular steel mold) or a regular plastic container that is shallow and rectangular so you can remove it quickly. Allow it to cool to room temperature until it solidifies, and then refrigerate it. Finally, cut the mizu yokan into small blocks and serve it chilled!
Toraya is a high-end yokan store in Kyoto, Japan. This shop was established in 1520 to make confectioneries for the royal family in the palace. After the royal family moved to Tokyo, Toraya opened a new shop in Tokyo besides their famous Kyoto store.
These days, you can quickly enter a Toraya store in Tokyo station, Roppongi, or even Ginza to try out this delicious treat. Toraya also has an online store. The best part is that Toraya’s signature yokan has a long shelf life of up to one year.
Funawa is another famous shop located in the Asakusa area. They specialize in classic yokan and have served people for over 100 years. They also have a newly-opened cafe near Kaminarimon, Tokyo, that serves a unique Western-style version.
Finally, Kibira in Nikko City is also famous for its mizu yokan. Because other shops in the area also serve tasty Japanese jelly, we recommended grabbing a few different types of yokan from the different shops there.
Overall, yokan is a delightful fusion of tradition and innovation. Vibrant flavors and a chewy texture add a joyful touch to any celebration. From its rich history to its modern-day allure, yokan continues to enchant taste buds and win hearts, creating an unforgettable sugary adventure! What kind of yokan is your favorite? Let us know in the comments below!
Do you need to expand your holiday shopping list? Look no further than TokyoTreat’s 2023 holiday gift guide!
In Japan, there are a lot of desserts to try! One of the most popular desserts is hard to miss, a fish-shaped dessert, taiyaki!
Japanese chocolates are treasured worldwide! They’re less sweet than other types of chocolate, and it usually has unusual ingredients like green tea and yuzu (Japanese citrus fruit)!
The special seasonal drinks from Starbucks Japan are already among the popular beverages in Japan! Undoubtedly, locals and tourists look forward to these drinks every year!
Meet ruby chocolate! If you’re intrigued by the first new chocolate in over 80 years, continue reading to learn more about this fascinating chocolate candy and snacks!
The Japanese dessert has a very rich history and variety! Adding new desserts to your repertoire indeed makes life sweeter. The regional desserts of Japan are also well-known and adored, just like its food!