Whether you’re visiting Japan, or you’re at home and would like to try something a bit different, the world of Japanese desserts can seem more than a little strange to western palates. Whereas in the west – particularly the UK and USA – we tend to emphasise intensely sweet desserts, the Japanese approach is typically more delicate and slightly more savoury. This can make it a bit of an unexpected surprise when you bite into a desert in Japan, so I thought it might be useful to go through some of the more popular desserts and let you know why you should give them a try.
This variety of mochi, a popular Japanese rice cake, is made with kuzu powder and served chilled. Almost gelatinous in texture, this dessert is not sticky and has a mild flavour which is often enhanced further with the addition of roasted soybean flour. If the taste isn’t sweet enough for your palate, you can add some fresh fruit or a syrup to bring a little bit of extra sweetness.
Japan’s version of iced confectionary, kakigōri is similar to a snow cone, although with a slightly different consistency. Made from shaved ice, this treat can be found in a wide variety of flavours from the sweeter side like cherry and grape to more savoury like green tea. Kakigōri is sometimes found with a topping of condensed milk. Refreshing on a hot day, kakigōri is one of Japan’s best quick desserts.
This pancake-like sandwich is a tasty treat that shares similarities with another Japanese dessert named imagawayaki. This dessert consists of two pancake-like layers with a centre of red bean paste separating the two. Imagawayaki is essentially the same, however, the paste is entirely enclosed in the batter rather than open like with dorayaki.
A Japanese sweet roll, Anpan is a slightly more westernised dessert. Consisting of a sweet dough roll which is filled with red bean paste, sesame paste, white bean paste or chestnut paste, Anpan can be eaten either as a dessert or as a sweet snack. Basically, treat them in the same way that you would a doughnut.