What is Anko?
Everywhere you turn in Japan, you run into anko. Anko (餡 子) is a red bean paste made from azuki (also spelled adzuki) beans that are mashed and sweetened with sugar or honey. An means bean jam and ko means child, but it’s also a term of endearment. Anko truly is a darling little paste. If you are a fan of Asian or Japanese food, you will notice that it is ubiquitous in Japanese cuisine. And, honestly, everyone becomes an anko convert sooner or later. One taste of the sweet, coffee colored, only slightly legumey paste and you’ll come to love it too!
Anko might look like chocolate filling to the unsuspecting eater who has just bitten into a sweet bun. Well, anko tastes nothing like chocolate and is in fact a much healthier alternative. Anko has approximately the same nutrition as dark chocolate but more good carbs, half the calories, and zero fat content. Red bean paste contains loads of protein, fiber, and antioxidants in addition to vitamins and minerals such as folate, manganese, and phosphorus.
Like peanut butter, anko comes in two main types: chunky and smooth. The chunky kind is called tsubuan and the smoother version is koshian.
How is Anko Eaten?
Unlike plain red azuki beans, anko is used primarily in sweet treats. And when you think of traditional Japanese dessert ingredients, anko is at the top of the list. Anko is squirted into dessert buns like manju or anpan (pan comes from the Portuguese word for “bread”). It is squeezed into mochi treats like daifuku or mochi balls. It is placed on top of a gelatin and fruit concoction known as anmitsu. It is used as a sauce on top of skewered boiled rice balls called dango. It is even hidden inside taiyakifish cakes. In fact, anko is in so many traditional wagashi(Japanese treats) that it’s practically a national treasure.
Where is Anko Sold?
Perhaps there is no Japanese grocery store around you and you can’t get your hands on any of these fancy-sounding desserts that feature anko. Don’t worry, you can make simple and delicious Japanese treats as long as you have anko spread. Anko can be made from scratch with red beans, water, sugar, and salt. Or you can purchase anko spread ready to go in a jar. Japanese grocery stores and other Asian grocery suppliers usually carry anko. If there is no Asian grocery option near you, or you prefer the convenience of home delivery, you can purchase it at Bokksu Market, an online Asian grocery store.
Two types of gourmet anko spread are available on Bokksu Grocery: Kuze Fuku Anko Red Bean Spread With Butter
The first one is made with creamy butter and red beans grown on the northernmost island, Hokkaido. The second one has the rich and earthy tasting addition of matcha, green tea powder that has caffeine and antioxidants galore.
What are Some Ways to Use Anko Spread?
The simplest way to enjoy anko is to spread it on bread or toast just like jam. The beans give it a more full-bodied and rich flavor compared to berries. It has a lightly sweet edge, but not as overpowering as many fruit jams. Anko spread would go well with Natural Yeast Bread: Hokkaido Cream, a soft and fluffy bun, which you can purchase at Bokksu Market!
Another easy way to enjoy anko is by using it as a topping for ice cream or yogurt. It is a far healthier accompaniment to ice cream than caramel or chocolate sauce, and it’s fun to replace fruit with anko as a yogurt topping.
If you want to go up a level in cooking, you can first prepare little pancakes and then spread anko in between two of them like a sandwich. This will resemble the well-known snack called dorayaki, a dessert popularized by Doraemon, a Japanese cat-robot anime character. The chunkier type of anko, tsubuan, is Doraemon’s preferred filling.
Now you have heard all about the Japanese culinary treasure, anko. Order groceries online via Bokksu Grocery and experience the craftsmanship and care that goes into every product, like Kuze Fuku Anko Red Bean Spread With Butter, and Matcha Anko Spread With Butter
By Megan Taylor Stephens