Often enjoyed during the summer days, Mizu yokan, a chilled Japanese red bean jelly with chestnut is a traditional sweet in Japan.
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 (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 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 these traditional Japanese sweets.
Various Types of Yokan
Instead of Azuki red beans flavor, some yokan is 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?
- 14 oz red bean paste (anko) (Use "koshian" fine red bean paste; the sweetness of red bean paste varies, depending on homemade or store-bought brands. You may need to adjust with additional sugar.)
- 1 ½ cup water
- 4 g kanten powder (1 package; See Notes)
- ⅛ tsp kosher/sea salt (I use Diamond Crystal; use half for table salt)
- 1 jar kuri kanroni (chestnuts in heavy syrup) (7 oz, 200 g)
- Gather all the ingredients. I use a nagashikan (6 x 5 x 2 inch or 15 x 13.5 x 4.5 cm). If you do not use a nagashikan, you might want to use a plastic wrap for easy removable out of the mold later on.
- 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 is covered, about ¼ inch (0.6 cm) 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 (1.3-2.5cm) thickness. Serve chilled. If it can't be consumed at once, keep it in the refrigerator for 3 days.
- Kanten powder = 1 tsp (2 g)
- Kanten stick = ½ stick (4 g)
- Kanten thread = 12 threads (4 g)