The Toshoan shop in Kyoto has been promoting the benefits of anko, the Japanese red bean, since 1950. You can find there products based on this ingredient, some traditional such as yokan, and others more modern, such as cheese-cakes or chocolate cakes.
Yokan, a traditional confectionery with a long history
Yokan are a traditional Japanese confectionery dating from the Muromachi period (1185-1573). The word yokan is written with the Chinese character for “sheep”. Indeed, at the time, this word referred to a mutton-based soup. When it solidified, it formed a kind of jelly, now reminiscent of the texture of the yokan. However, the Japanese monks could not eat this soup because it was meat-based and a vegetarian version based on red beans was created.
It was therefore a dish served to monks, but over the years, it evolved into a sweet confection, which is traditionally enjoyed with tea.
Yokan were also very popular because they can be stored easily and for a long time. However, there are no added chemical additives for preservation. So why do they keep for so long?
The first reason is that it contains a lot of sugar. The concentration of sugar improves the preservation of food. The second is that the red bean paste is cooked at a high temperature for a long time.
Yokan may seem unhealthy because of its high sugar level, but the Toshoan store reminds us that sugar is essential to keep you active all day. So why not have a little yokan break when you’re feeling tired? Included in our July 2021 Peko Peko Box, a yuzu flavored Toshoan yokan. Subscribe now so you don’t miss it.
Gluten-free red bean desserts?
Toshoan does not only offer yokan, but also desserts and cakes made without wheat flour, but with anko, red beans, to replace it. The use of anko in these desserts makes it possible to offer gluten-free and healthier sweets.
At Toshoan, you can find gluten-free chocolate cakes, matcha cakes, cheesecakes and even gluten-free pancakes. Surprisingly, the texture is not at all dry as you might expect, but very creamy.
So, on your next visit to Kyoto, why not take a break in the boutique tea room and try one of their delicious gluten-free pancakes, made with anko?