When you visit a Japanese restaurant in America, the dessert offerings are pretty much all the same. Green tea and red bean flavored ice cream, matcha cheesecake, and if you’re lucky, delicious mochi. What is mochi? Why, it’s just one of the many Japanese desserts that you’ve got to try if you haven’t already.
While some of the more obscure flavors and ingredients used to make traditional Japanese desserts may seem a bit strange, there are dozens of desserts that are as sophisticated as the Italian tiramisu, sinfully addictive as cheesecake, and just plain as fun to eat as an ice cream cone on a warm summer’s day.
If you get the chance, seek out these 5 popular traditional Japanese desserts. Once you do, you’ll quickly learn why the Japanese claim to have a second stomach just for dessert!
As mentioned above, mochi is a typical menu for years in many Japanese restaurants. Also, now you can even find mochi bars in various Whole Foods supermarkets across the United States.
While there are actually several different kinds of mochi treats, the one most Americans are familiar with consists of a small ball of ice cream surrounded by a somewhat chewy coating, which makes for a great textural experience. The coating is actually made from a type of rice called glutinous or sticky rice, which is pounded into a sticky paste and then molded into buns. In addition to ice cream, mochi can be used to surround a number of tasty fillings.
Castella is a type of delicious sponge cake with simple ingredients. Just the right amount of sweetness makes this dessert extremely popular in Japan—in fact, Nagasaki bears the honor of being the “castella capital,” and many who visit the area bring home the cake as a souvenir.
Castella was actually first introduced to Nagasaki by the traders from Portugal who were traveling through Japan. The original food was actually more of a bread than a cake, but the recipe alteration made it sweeter and moist.
3. Kohi Zeri (Coffee Jelly)
Enjoyed all year-round but definitely a favorite summertime treat, coffee jelly can be compared to American Jell-O. However, of course, coffee-flavored Jell-O isn’t found on American supermarket shelves. The jelly might also come in espresso flavor. People enjoy it with ice cream, whipped cream or similar sweet topping.
A traditional Japanese desserts that comes in a colorful variety of shapes and flavors. Typically enjoyed with tea, these confections are not easy to make, but definitely easy to consume! The different types of wagashi you might see include a skewer of sweet rice dumplings, call “dango;” a small cake of mochi filled with sweetened bean paste, called “daifuku;” and a jelly dessert of assorted flavors called “yokan.”
The Japanese enjoy parfaits for dessert, and one common parfait is anmitsu, which is unlike any parfait you might see in America. Consisting of layers of small cubes of jelly, sweetened red bean paste and fresh fruit that has been topped with a dark, sugary syrup called kuromitsu, the parfait might also include ice cream or small dumplings made of rice.