Zenzai is a traditional Japanese sweets that I grew up with. Usually it is made with sweet azuki bean soup but the beauty of paring it up with Matcha is creating the perfect balance of sweetness and subtle bitterness.
What is Zenzai?
What is zenzai anyway? Zenzai is traditional Japanese sweets. Zenzai is basically sweet azuki bean soup with mochi rice cakes. Zenzai was often served after school cross country events in winter to cheer up students and restore their energy. I certainly just ran for this treat and I am not exaggerating. I think every runner was just lured with the sweet aroma from a distance away and knew where to go next after they cross the line.
Why add Matcha?
Usually azuki bean soup and mochi rice cakes is what makes Zenzai. I decided to replace the azuki bean soup with matcha syrup and added matcha jelly to make cold zenzai. But why paring up with Matcha? You probably already know what matcha is because there is upward trend in Matcha all over the world now. Adding matcha definitely boosts your antioxidants intake and it tastes yummy.
Hot or Cold?
Zenzai is a very versatile sweet in terms of temperature of the sweets. It can be eaten cold or hot, so basically matcha zenzai is just awesome because it accommodates everyone and suits any season and weather.
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. It’s not very complicated and if you have access to Shiratamako or Jyoshinnko, which are both rice flour, just add water or tofu, and small rice balls can be made easily.
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- 2 g powdered gelatin
- 300 ml water
- 2 tbsp icing sugar
- 2 tbsp matcha powder
- 1 tbsp hot water
- 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.
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
*1 If you are unable to find matcha bamboo whisk, use an ordinary whisk.
*2 I usually use same amount of silken tofu for more intense mochi texture.
*3 Kinako powder adds a nutty flavour, this is optional so if you can not find it, you can omit this.
*4 Cooking time includes setting the jelly and syrup in the fridge. Check the coagulant agency difference here (link).