My two favorite desserts are pie and anmitsu. The word is a mashup of two of its main ingredients anko (red bean paste) and mitsu (syrup). Although I can access good pie in Oakland, there is literally no place I can get anmitsu. Every time I go back to Japan, I make sure to gorge on anmitsu - scouting out the best Showa-style kanmidokoro (sweets parlors) that serve up cream anmitsu, shave ice, and parfaits.
During my last visit to Japan, I visited, Hikoichi in Sendai.
This parlor was the place of my dreams. The low ceilings and and wooden chairs felt like I was traveling back in time to 1950s Japan. Not to mention the menu display - which also looked like it hasn't changed in decades.
Here's the anmitsu I got at Hikoichi. I like how they packed it with a lot of fruit.
On my last day in Japan, I went to Fukurokuji in Ginza, which is much more modern than Hikoichi in Sendai. Still, it serves a solid anmitsu, with a very dark matcha soft serve that I've had the last two times I've been in Tokyo.
My favorite variation on anmitsu is the matcha cream anmitsu. It incorporates, kanten (agar agar jelly), fruit, anko, mochi*, and matcha ice cream.
I am not a baker, so I have always shied away from making desserts. I've also had low motivation to bake because my sister and mom are master bakers. I'm lucky to be a life-long recipient of hand-made pies, cookies, and cakes throughout my years. But as an anmitsu lover in a desert of Japanese sweets shops, I couldn't hold it in any longer. Upon my return from Japan over the summer, I couldn't stop thinking about anmitsu – anmitsu was like a loved-one I'd miss during travel.
My mom not only bakes, but also makes Japanese desserts, so I asked her about making anmitsu. Like all things recipe-related she said "It's so easy to make!" In my head, I always think Yes, for YOU it is.
But this time, it was true. Besides making the kanten, the real challenge is just finding the ingredients. In fact, the hardest ingredient to find for me was high quality matcha ice cream (I finally found some at Lush Gelato in Oakland).
*Note: I don't like sweet mochi (yes, sacrilage!!!), so I usually have a friend eat it.
2 tbsp canned azuki (canned red bean)**
1 cup diced kanten (agar agar jelly)**
2 tbsp kuromitsu (black sugar syrup)**, substitute with brown sugar syrup if kuromitsu is unavailable
1 scoop matcha ice cream
3 slices of tangerine supremes
*If you like mochi, you can add mochi pieces.
**Generally available at the Japanese market
1. Make the kanten. I like to used the powdered type. Follow the directions on the box. It'll take a few hours for the jelly to harden and set, so plan this step ahead of time.
2. Make the kuromitsu. I melted a 2:1 ratio of black sugar to water over the stove. The kuromitsu also needs time to cool.
3. After the kanten has set, dice and place in a flat bottomed bowl, like the Studio Arhoj Munch Bowl.
4. Pour the kuromitsu on top.
5. Scoop the azuki on top.
6. Place tangerines next to azuki.
7. Scoop ice cream on the side.
8. Garnish with a cherry. I like the Japanese kind in a can, that you can get at the Japanese market.
Now that I know how to make Matcha Cream Anmitsu, I feel less deprived as a Japanese dessert lover. With a Japanese food market nearby I see many Matcha Cream Anmitsus in my future.