Oshiruko is a Japanese dish favourite, the perfect dessert soup during the wintertime for its warmth and sweetness. Locals traditionally serve this hot red bean soup after New Year's Day with Kagami Biraki to warm themselves from the cold.
We scoured the internet, cooked different zenzai recipes and finally came up with the best tasting Oshiruko. So in this article, we'll show you how to make different variations of this red bean soup. These recipes are easy and simple to follow that you can make at home today.
What is it?
Oshiruko, also simply called Shiruko, is an excellent dessert from Anko, a red bean paste cooked with sugar, water, and mochi. Moreover, it originates from Susuri Dango centuries ago and can now be bought as instant soups in different convenience stores.
It has evolved through the centuries, but why did this dish remain a local favourite?
The main reason this soup remains a local favourite is not only because of how easy it is to make. We love it, mainly because of its sweet, rich, and flavorful taste. Locals often crave this red bean soup the most on colder days, specifically during the December holidays.
Also, not sure if it's just us, but Japanese foods always have this unique taste that will make you feel homey. It's not so different from Oshiruko. It tastes sweet and has these red beans and mochi that are chewy in your mouth.
We probably mentioned sweet for several times now. But surprisingly, the calorie count for this dessert isn't as high as you may assume. That means you can get this oh-so goody dish without worrying so much about your calorie count.
A cup of Oshiruko only has a range of 164-185 calories, depending on what you'll add to the dish. The soup mainly contains healthy ingredients like red beans, water, and rice cakes.
Zenzai vs Oshiruko
Zenzai and Oshiruko are both soups made from boiling red beans and sugar. However, they primarily differ in texture and added ingredients. For the Zenzai recipe, you basically simmer the Anko or red beans. Meanwhile, for the Oshiruko recipe, you crush the beans into a smoother paste, resulting in a soup that is more watery.
Different regions in Japan also determines how to make red bean soup. For example, in East Japan, Zenzai is a chunky soup topped with mochi, while Oshiruko is a sweet Anko soup without the hint of beans. On the other hand, both are done the same way in the West of Japan.
We'll show you below how to make both ways.
As we've mentioned earlier, Oshiruko is simple and easy to make. The dish also doesn't require a lot of ingredients but can be customized depending on what toppings you'd like to add.
The main elements of the soup are red bean paste, water, salt, and mochi. Any other ingredients added will enhance the flavour to give you a better tasting experience.
Anko or Azuki Red Bean
Anko is a sweet red bean paste that makes this recipe special. This is from mashed azuki beans and is familiar to Japanese dessert filling. You can buy this in a can or create one in your home.
We made a whole article about Japanese red bean paste and how you can make this at home. Of course, the taste of your Oshiruko will highly depend on how delicious your Anko is.
You can use four types of Anko for this recipe: Tsubu-an, Tsubushi-an, Koshi-an, and Oguru-an. The most commonly used for Oshiruko is Tsubu-an and Tsubushi-an.
Tsubu-an is a chunky red bean paste made up of whole beans. Tsubushi-an is the crushed red bean paste. It's the version we love for this red bean soup because of its subtle texture when dissolved into the soup.
Koshi-an is the creamier and smoother version among these four since the skin of azuki beans are removed. Last but not least, there's Oguru-an, the mixed red bean paste. This type of Anko uses larger Azuki beans and is mixed with Koshi-an after adding the sweeteners like honey.
Oshiruko is not the same without mochi. This can be store-bought or made at home. We love this done the traditional way: cooked in boiling water. You can also do this by frying or toasting. Mochi makes the Zenzai recipe complete and perfect for dessert.
Salt and Water
It's not a soup without water and salt. This ingredient ensures that your Zenzai will taste according to your preference. You can use any salt you have at home. However, we advise using rock salt for this recipe.
You have several options on what to add to your recipe. This can be Shiratama or dango mochi, and you can also put matcha. Otherwise, you may also make it a cold zenzai.
If you're feeling extra, you can make your red bean soup by adding Cherry Blossom Rice Cake as your toppings.
Mix ¼ cup of shiratamako, ¼ teaspoon of sugar, and 2 tablespoon of water in a bowl. Knead the dough with hands until soft and dewy. Get small portions of shiratama and roll into little bowls. Put shiratamako dough in boiling water and take it out when it starts to float.
You can add Shiratama as a topping to Oshiruko.
Matcha lovers, this recipe is for you. In a bowl, mix a tablespoon of sugar and matcha. You can use a strainer to make sure that your matcha is finer. Afterwards, you add a cup of water and mix until the sugar and matcha are dissolved.
Serve this by pouring it hot in a cup with mochi and red bean paste.
We love this version of Matcha Zenzai by MTC Kitchen, where they added shiratama dango to red bean paste and hot matcha. You can watch the video recipe at this link: Making Matcha Zenzai.
Although many locals serve Zenzai during winter or colder seasons, you will find that it also goes well when you eat it as a cold dessert. Amazingly, this can fit in any season or weather. Moreover, you can also chill Zenzai and serve it with a few scoops of ice cream.
There's not much of a difference when it comes to taste. It still gives a hint of sweetness, making it a good choice for dessert. Some cold zenzai recipe includes matcha for added flavour.
- Red bean paste can sometimes be sweeter compared to when you boil red beans yourself at home. You can adjust the taste by adding more water.
- Cut your toppings (mochi, shiratama, or dango) in 2 inches or less to make it easier to chew.
- Make a big batch of red bean paste and keep it refrigerated. A little hack so you can enjoy Zenzai any time.
- You have the option to add one or both mochi and shiratama dango to your red bean soup. We love having both of them in our soup if we’re looking to have more toppings.
- If you like your soup with the umami taste, use soy sauce instead of salt.
Oshiruko (Zenzai) Recipe | Red Bean Soup with Mochi
- 2 pcs Mochi cut in half
- 400 ml water
- 400 g Anko or Sweet Red Bean Paste
- ½ teaspoon Salt
- Prepare and gather all ingredients.
- Dissolve Anko or red bean paste in water over medium heat in a small pot.
- When it comes to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for 7-8 minutes.
- Add a pinch of salt and stir well.
- Cut mochi into two or four depending on your preference, then put in a hot pan.
- Heat mochi until both sides are a little toasted and are puffed.
- Serve red bean soup and mochi in a small bowl. Enjoy!
- If you prefer to do a Zenzai, which is chunkier, reduce the water and put less pressure in dissolving the Anko.
- Cooking red beans directly instead of a paste is also an option you can try. Boil washed red beans with sugar in medium-high heat for an hour. Mix well until the beans’ becomes easy to mash with your fingers.
- Remember only to put salt after the paste/beans have been cooked.
- There are other options to cook the mochi aside from heating it in a pan - using microwave or toaster.
- Zenzai is sometimes served with sour-tasting sides to balance the sweetness like pickled plums, radish or kombu tea.
Calories have been calculated using an online calculator. Nutritional information offered on Honest Food Talks is for general information purposes and are only rough estimations.
MANPUKU KITCHEN on Youtube has a great video recipe showing the whole process of making this traditional treat. They serve the sweet and warm dessert in classic Japanese bowls adding to the dish's aesthetic!
If you've done this recipe and loved how it turned out, we'll look forward to seeing you enjoy this on New Year's Eve. You can tag us on Instagram @honestfoodtalks.