Have you tried or seen a Japanese red bean jelly called Yokan (羊羹, ようかん)? This traditional Japanese sweet is usually shaped like a rectangular block and the texture is pretty firm so even when sliced thinly it would stand upright.
Compared to colorful western style jellies, Yokan might seem a bit dated and rather boring. However it is absolutely one of the best treats when enjoyed with matcha; the sweet taste of azuki and bitter taste of matcha complements each other perfectly.
So.. what is Yokan and Mizu Yokan?
Yokan is made of just a few simple ingredients; azuki red bean paste, sugar, and kanten (or agar agar – If you never heard of this ingredient, visit this page). Unlike gelatin, kanten is vegan/vegetarian friendly, so everyone can enjoy this jelly.
There are two types of Yokan. The firmer jelly is Neri Yokan (練ようかん) or simply, Yokan. It includes a higher concentration of kanten (agar) so it’s firmer, and the texture is also thick and heavy.
When the proportion of water content is higher, the jelly is called Mizu Yokan (水ようかん), as mizu means “water” in Japanese. Because it doesn’t taste as heavy as Neri Yokan, chilled Mizu Yokan is often enjoyed during the summer.
My family prefers Mizu Yokan over regular Yokan and today I’m sharing a very easy Mizu Yokan recipe, and I think it’s more enjoyable if you’re new to this traditional Japanese sweets.
Various Types of Yokan
Instead of Azuki red beans flavor, some yokan are instead made with chestnuts (Kuri Yokan 栗ようかん), Japanese sweet potatoes (Imo Yokan 芋ようかん), or the combination of white beans and Matcha (Matcha Yokan 抹茶ようかん).
The regular red bean flavored yokan may also include chestnuts (like how I made them today) and call it Kuri Yokan. I think it’s much prettier to have golden chestnuts inside the jelly and they taste wonderful with red bean flavor.
How Do I Find Chestnuts When They Are Not In Season?
Don’t worry, you can get chestnuts all year round. And even better, you don’t have to cook and peel the chestnuts. When you go to a Japanese grocery store, look for Kuri no Kanroni (栗の甘露煮) (see the picture here), which is a jar of chestnuts preserved in syrup.
French cuisine also uses marron glacé (candied chestnuts) in desserts and I think you can use French chestnuts as well.
Where to Find Nagashikan?
I hope you will enjoy this traditional sweets from Japan! If you try it, don’t forget to share your picture on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter with #JustOneCookbook. Thank you so much for reading, and till next time!
- 14.1 oz (400 g) fine red bean paste (Koshian – red bean paste with no bean skin)
- 1 ½ cup (350 ml) water
- 1 stick (4 g) powdered kanten (agar agar)
- pinch of salt
- 1 jar (7 oz/200 g) Kuri Kanroni (chestnut in heavy syrup)
- A nagashikan or similar size mold (6 x 5 x 2 inch or 15 x 13.5 x 4.5 cm)
- In a small saucepan, pour 1 ½ cup water and add 1 package (4 g) powdered kanten. Whisk well and bring to a boil.
- Once boiling, lower the heat and let powdered kanten dissolve completely, about 2 minutes.
- Add red bean paste and dissolve the paste with a silicone spatula.
- Once red bean paste has completely dissolved, add salt and remove from the heat to let it cool a bit, about 2-3 minutes.
- Pour mixture into the pan until the bottom of the Nagashikan (or similar size mold) is covered, about ¼ inch thickness. Then let it cool at room temperature until the mixture is solidified, about 10 minutes (time varies depending on the temperature of your kitchen).
- Once solidified, put the chestnuts on top with equal spacing from each other.
- Pour the rest of mixture over so that it will cover the chestnuts. Let it cool on the counter for about 15 minutes, then transfer to the refrigerator until it has completely chilled, about 2 hours.
- Run a knife around the edge of nagashikan and lift the inner removable tray.
- Cut into 3 rectangular shapes and then slice each rectangular piece into ½ to 1 inch thickness. Serve chilled. If it can't be consumed at once, keep it in the refrigerator for 3 days.
If you do not use Nagashikan, you might want to use a plastic wrap for easy removable out of the mold later on.
Sweetness of red bean paste varies depends on homemade or store-bought brands. Therefore, please adjust your Mizu Yokan with additional sugar.
Recipe by Namiko Chen of Just One Cookbook. All images and content on this site are copyright protected. Please do not use my images without my permission. If you’d like to share this recipe on your site, please re-write the recipe in your own words and link to this post as the original source. Thank you.