Sunday, May 29, 2011

Zenzai is not a religion but, it could be!

Okinawa is known for its traditional sweet treats. I call them traditional but for most westerners, they are anything but. What makes them unique is the use of natural or “traditional” sweeteners.
For example, Beni-imo is a purple colored sweet potato that is often used for stuffing pastries. Sataandagi, sometimes known as Okinawan doughnuts are always a favorite. Then there’s the old standby cane sugar. This is often squeezed or milled to extract the juice and then cooked down to the raw sugar. It’s often used as a treat by itself or to sweeten other treats.
The last on my short list is the Azuki bean. This is a sweet red bean that is often cooked and used in the very popular dora-yaki. Dora-yaki is made when you make two small pancakes and stuff the sweet cooked Axuki beans, that have been mashed into a paste like substance, in-between them. Dora-yaki is so popular that Japan has a cartoon character named after them known as Doraemon!

There’s another popular Japanese sweet treat that makes use of the azuki bean called the zensai. This is made from cooked azuki beans and mochi. First the beans are soaked and soften then cooked. Mochi is rice that has been pounded and kneaded into a doughy consistency and then these too are cooked. The two are then served together in a dish.

In mainland Japan, this dish is usually served while it’s still hot. In Okinawa, it’s already plenty hot so what the locals do is let the concoction cool and then cover it with shaved ice. That my friends is how you cool off on a hot summer’s day, “Okinawan” style!

This is my submission for Travel Photo Thursday for June 2nd, 2011. To see all the great places, just follow the link!


  1. Interesting article, thank you :)

  2. I wouldn't have guessed that the beans could serve as a sweetener.

  3. This is very intersting about the Zenzai and nice photos to go along with it.

  4. I'm not a bean paste fan of any sort, but if I came to Okinawa I would definitely try this.

    Thanks for posting to Travel Photo Thursday.

  5. I love that Japanese cooking uses natural sweeteners instead of all the refined white sugar we tend to use in North America.