Monday, August 4, 2008


Day fourteen: Mizuyōkan / 水羊羹

Above: Murakami at Takashimaya, ¥180

Below: Kameya, 3-26-2 Yoyogi, Shibuya, ¥126

Thanks to Japan’s tyrannical seasons, many foods need to be adjusted throughout the year. Yōkan is a substantial and popular sweet made of pulped beans, sugar, and kanten, but it’s on the heavy side for the hot weather eating, so this time of year the proportion of kanten is increased to make softer, lighter mizuyōkan (literally “water yōkan”).

Basic yōkan holds its shape well; it need only be sliced into bars and wrapped in plastic or foil. Softer mizuyōkan generally comes in some kind of container. Lengths of green bamboo are sometimes used, but seem to be losing out to standardized plastic replicas, like the one below.

The pink example is flavored with a vegetable called kinjisou (金時草), the green one with matcha tea. In both cases the flavoring is a very mild addition to the predominant sweetness. The bean meal gives mizuyōkan a slight but not unpleasant grittiness.

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