Cold Matcha Zenzai is one of the many matcha recipes you can make to enjoy Japanese style desserts at home! In this tasty dish, chilled matcha jelly is topped with sweet azuki beans, mochi, and matcha syrup. The pairing of the azuki and matcha creates the perfect balance of sweetness and subtle bitterness and makes for a refreshing little treat.
What is Zenzai?
Zenzai, or Oshiruko depending on where you are from in Japan, is a traditional Japanese sweet. It is made from an azuki bean soup with mochi rice cakes. It is subtly sweet with the signature flavor and aroma of azuki red beans. This is a popular winter dessert in Japan but this chilled matcha jelly version means we can enjoy it in warmer months too!
Azuki beans – These are a type of red bean widely used in Japan and other Asian countries. In Japan it is used to make desserts and traditional sweets. For this I used a ready-made canned azuki bean paste. However, if you can’t access this, you can make azuki bean paste from scratch.
Matcha – Matcha is a traditional Japanese green tea that many people are familiar with nowadays since its popularity skyrocketed over the years. It is the pulverised form of green tea leaves; however it differs from regular green tea as it is grown in the shade which causes an overproduction of chlorophyll. This is what gives the powdered tea its vibrant colour. However, not all matcha tea is the same. Read more below to learn about which grades of matcha to use.
Powdered gelatin – To make the jelly, you will need some form of setting agent. I used Kanten powder which is made from seaweed, making it suitable for vegans. You could also use animal gelatin or agar-agar.
Glutinous rice flour – This is used to make the mochi balls. It can either be shiratamako, Jyoshinko, or mochiko. These can be found in Japanese grocery stores or online.
What type of Matcha to use?
Usually azuki bean soup is what makes Zenzai. However, making it with matcha is also common in Japan. Matcha is a type of green tea in the form of a fine powder that is used in Japanese tea ceremonies, for drinks like smoothies and iced matcha latte, and for many desserts such as ice cream, cookies, and muffins. There are different grades of matcha which vary in flavour and colour. Since we are just using it for cooking, a ceremonial grade matcha is unnecessary, instead opt for a culinary grade matcha. This is still a good quality matcha with the same health benefits and nutrients. Matcha gives this dessert a subtle bitter savoury note, tastes great chilled into jelly, and provides antioxidants.
The easiest way to make mochi balls
If you are a Japanese food lover, you already know what mochi is. Mochi is rice cakes that is made by pounding sweet (mochi) rice into a sticky and chewy ball. It’s not very complicated, however it can be a time consuming and exhausting process if you don’t have a mochi making machine. However, there is an easier way. Using Shiratamako or Jyoshinnko, makes this very simple. These are two types of rice flour, which only require just water or tofu to become mochi.
The dessert for any season
Zenzai is a versatile sweet because it can be enjoyed both hot and cold. It accommodates everyone and suits any season and weather. Using matcha green tea gives it a fresh but bold flavour which means it suits being served at any temperature. This is one of my favorite matcha recipes, especially because it doesn’t require an expensive high quality matcha to taste and look great. This dessert is suitable for anyone, however as it is made with matcha, it does contain caffeine. You can prepare the chilled jelly in a large dish to serve up in small bowls or set the jelly in an individual jar and serve as is.
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Cold Matcha Zenzai
- 2 g powdered gelatin
- 300 ml water
- 2 tbsp icing sugar
- 2 tbsp matcha powder
- 1 tbsp hot water
Mini Mochi Balls
- 1 cup glutinous rice flour
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 tbsp matcha
- 2 tbsp white sugar
- 250 ml hot water
- 1 can ready-made sweet azuki bean paste
- In a small cup, add the matcha powder and icing sugar. Whisk them together with a matcha bamboo whisk in order to avoid creating any lumps. *1
- Pour about 1 tbs of hot water and whisk them together vigorously to make a paste and set aside.
- Put the 300 ml of water and gelatine powder into a sauce pan and cook over medium heat.
- Once the gelatine has dissolved, add the matcha paste and mix them together.
- Remove from the heat and pour into a shallow container and allow it to cool down for a little while.
- Once it has cooled down, place it in the fridge to set at least 30 minutes.
Mini Mochi Balls
- Put the glutinous rice flour into a bowl and gradually add a little amount of the water while stirring it all together until it becomes soft and formed.
- You may not need to use all the water, or may need to use more, just keep adding water until it becomes a firm but still soft consistency. *2
- Fill a large pot with water and bring it boil.
- Roll the mochi mixture into little balls and plop them into the boiling water.
- Once the mochi balls are cooked, they will rise to the surface of the water. Scoop them out and place them in a bowl of cold water.
- Drain out the cold water and divide the mochi balls into four serves in small bowls and set aside.
- Add the matcha and white sugar into a cup. Whisk them together with a bamboo whisk to avoid making lumps.
- Gradually add the hot water and stir together.
- Allow it to cool down and then refrigerate for 30 minutes.
- Take the jelly out of the fridge and cut it into small pieces and divide them into 4 bowls.
- Add mochi balls into the bowls.
- Top with sweet bean paste.
- Pour the matcha syrup over and kinako (soy bean powder) if you like *3