Zenzai is a simple and comforting Japanese dessert made with adzuki beans, sugar and glutinous rice cakes (mochi). It can be described as a sweet bean soup great for the colder months of the year.
Even though I grew up eating many variations of sweet beans such as “frejol colado” (black bean paste) eaten as dessert and as a filling in Chinese pastries, the adzuki bean paste in mochi, and my aunties’ treat made with canario beans (white beans similar to canellini) and sugar.
During our trip to Japan last year we learned you can buy warm cans of sweet adzuki bean soup in many vending machines. We also came across a few restaurants and cafes offering zenzai in their menus. We tried it at a casual restaurant in Koyasan and we were hooked.
Zenzai can be made from adzuki paste, which comes pre-sweetened. I prefer using canned adzuki beans (you can use dried ones and cook them yourself) because I can adjust the type and quantity of sweetener to my liking. Adzuki beans can be found in some supermarkets and most health-oriented grocers and food shops.
I used Natvia to sweeten the beans, but feel free to experiment with other kinds of sugar or natural sweeteners.
As for the mochi, you can use any type of plain unsweetened mochi but I like the textural contrast of baked kiri mochi. Mochi (of different kinds) can be found in Japanese or Asian grocers and online.
- 2 cans cooked adzuki beans
- 4 tbsp Natvia or other natural sweetener
- 4 kiri mochi
- pinch of salt
- Preheat oven or toaster oven to moderate temperature.
- Place beans and their water in a small pot with sweetener and a pinch of salt. Simmer until heated through or longer for a mushier texture.
- While beans simmer, halve kiri mochi and bake for 12-15 minutes, until puffed and golden brown.
- Serve beans and mochi in bowls and enjoy.