Beat the Heat: Five Must-Try Summer Desserts in Japan

Photo: 663highland

Beat the Heat: Five Must-Try Summer Desserts in Japan

John Asano

Summer has arrived in Japan which means the start of the muggy heat and also the dreaded rainy season. Last summer, I highlighted some of the many “Must-Try Summer Dishes in Japan” in order to cool down and beat the heat. Now, I’d like to continue on with the same theme and introduce some of the many must-try summer desserts in Japan.

Japan has been making desserts for centuries with unique and interesting creations based on readily available local ingredients such as rice and sweet beans. These desserts are designed not only to look good but taste great as well, helping you to cool down from the summer heat. Bon Appetite!

1. Kakigori (Shaved Ice)


The ultimate summer dessert and cool down dish in Japan is “kakigori” or shaved ice. This popular summer treat consists of shaved ice coated with a flavoured syrup. Some of the most popular flavours include strawberry, soda, lemon, melon and matcha green tea. If you are feeling colourful, you can order one with two or more different syrups, creating a rainbow treat. Kakigori is sold virtually everywhere in Japan during the summer from street vendors and festivals to coffee shops and restaurants.

Azuki beans over shaved ice

Photo: John Asano on Flickr

2. Mizu Manju (Water Cake)


Mizu Manju is a popular dessert traditionally only eaten in the summertime. The inside consists of sweet bean fillings, while the exterior is made with kuzu (root) starch, giving it a translucent jelly-like appearance. Not only does Mizu Manju taste great, it is a textural sensation for the mouth.

Mizu Manju

Photo: Norio Nomura on Flickr

3. Warabi Mochi (Bracken Starch Dumpling)


Warabi mochi is a popular summer treat in the Kansai and Okinawa regions of Japan. The jelly-like confection is made from bracken starch that is covered or dipped in "kinako" (sweet toasted soybean flour). The unique texture and taste of this summertime treat with its sweet, slightly nutty and chewy texture make it extremely popular amongst the Japanese.

Warabi mochi

Photo: Tomomarusan [GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC BY 2.5], via Wikimedia Commons

4. Anmitsu (Jelly, Fruit & Sweet Red Beans)


Anmitsu is a classic Japanese dessert that has been popular for many decades. It is made of small cubes of agar jelly (white translucent jelly) served in a bowl with sweet red azuki beans and a variety of fruit such as peaches, mikan oranges, pineapple and cherries. The colourful dessert usually comes with a small pot of sweet black syrup, called “mitsu”, which is poured onto the jelly before eating. This dessert is a delightful combination of different textures and flavours from all its wonderful ingredients.

Anmitsu

Photo: Hajime NAKANO on Flickr

5. Kuzu Mochi (Chilled Dessert Rice Cakes)


Kuzu Mochi is a simple traditional dessert consisting of mochi (rice cakes) made of "kuzuko" (kuzu root starch powder) which are traditionally served chilled, dusted with kinako (sweet toasted soybean flour) and covered in kuromitsu (sweet brown sugar syrup). This delicious dessert is not as sticky as some of its other counterparts with a nice consistency similar to gelatine.

Kuzu mochi

Photo: KATORISI (Own work) [GFDL or CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons