Summer is here, but before the killer heat and humidity set it, this is the perfect time to learn how to make light, refreshing, and mildly sweet mizuyōkan 水ようかん! Since we know you will skip to the recipe even if we write a lengthy intro (we know, because it’s what we do!), we’ll cut right to the chase. Here is how to make mizuyōkan with only three ingredients:
- 300 g smooth red bean paste (こしあん)–the higher the quality the better, since this is the main ingredient
- 400 cc water
- 2g agar-agar powder (粉寒天)
You will also need the following:
- Baking scale
- Heat-resistant spatula
- Large frying pan
- Rectangular loose bottom cake or quiche pan (Japanese 流し缶 7×13 cm)
- Cutting board
- Round sifter
If you don’t have a round sifter handy, use any kitchenware with a mesh (colander sieve, strainer, or sifter).
- Add water to a pan
2. Add agar agar
3. Stir lightly with a whisk, and turn on high heat. Continue stirring lightly with a spatula until just boiling.
4. Turn off heat and let stand for 3 minutes while agar agar dissolves completely.
5. Dissolve こしあん into the hot water using your sifter to give your dessert an even smoother texture
6. Continue to stir lightly until mixture has cooled completely.
7. Pour into a 7×13 cm mould
8. Cover and put in the refrigerator to chill for 30 minutes.
9. After 30 minutes, slide the solidified yōkan onto a flat surface, and use a kitchen knife to slice into bite-sized pieces.
10. Place on a beautiful tray with seasonal flowers or leaves for decoration.
(Store for 3 days in the fridge or up to 2 weeks in the freezer, although do note that it will lose flavor with time.)
A Brief History of Mizuyōkan
Now that you have gotten the important information, here is brief history of this simple sweet.
From the middle of the Edo Period, mizuyōkan was served with osechi ryouri (New Year’s cuisine) and thus became known as a winter dessert. With time and the development of refrigeration, however, its light and refreshing taste turned it into the popular summer delicacy it is today.
Another name for mizuyōkan is “dechi bou yōkan” 丁稚ようかん. “dechi bō” is a Buddhist monk’s apprentice. Because you can stretch the recipe infinitely by increasing the water to yōkan ratio, even a poor apprentice Buddhist monk can afford to buy it.
How to Enjoy Mizuyōkan
If you are going wafuu, serve with a cup of green tea. For a Western twist, top mizuyōkan with a tiny dollop of whipped cream (or Cool Whip), a sprinkle of chocolate shavings, or coconut flakes. Serve with a cup of Earl Grey tea or good coffee.