Zenzai is sweet Azuki red bean soup with baked Mochi or Dango in it. It is a traditional Japanese snack. Although you can find it all year round at Japanese sweet shops in Japan, warm Zenzai is especially popular during cold seasons.
Zenzai is basically soup made from Anko. Anko (sweet red bean paste) is the crucial ingredient for traditional Japanese confectioneries. It is a paste made with Azuki (red beans) and sugar. Anko is used in a lot of different ways in many types of dessert in Japan. It could be used as is in cakes like Dorayaki (Anko sandwiched between sweet pancakes), or jellied and molded into Yokan. In the process of making Anko, there is leftover broth from cooking the red beans which is then discarded. For Zenzai, though, you keep the broth to use as the base for the soup.
Baked Mochi is the most popular thing to put in Zenzai, but you can also try Dango which is a kind of Mochi. If you add candied chestnuts (Kuri Kanroni), it becomes Kuri Zenzai. It is quite sweet like many other Japanese sweets. Zenzai is often served with Kombu Tsukudani (salty seaweed) so that you can cleanse the palette. If you don’t have it, hot green tea would do the job too.
Zenzai is a very easy Japanese sweet, especially if you have already made Anko before. Make this sweet soup on a cold winter day. It will warm you up nicely!
- 1 cup Azuki red beans
- 1 1/2 cup sugar
- Put red beans in a pot with 4-5 cups of water. Let boil for 5 minutes and discard water.
- In a clean pot, place red beans and 4-5 cups of water, cover, and let it simmer at low heat for 1 1/2 to 2 hours (add more water to keep above the beans). The beans should now be very soft, easily crushed between fingers.
- Strain water, but save the water. Put soft beans back in the pot with sugar at medium high heat and constantly stir and mix about 10 minutes until forming a paste that looks shiny but still loose. Put the water back to the pot, add a pinch of salt, and stir. Cook until hot, and keep it warm at low heat.
- Bake mochi in a toaster oven until browned and expanded. Put the mochi to a bowl and pour soup over.