Manju, is one variety of the myriad of Japanese sweets, or wagashi, available for enjoyment. Manju is a round steamed cake which is typically filled with a sweet red bean filling. It differs from the otherwise popular mochi, or rice cake, which at times also is filled with a sweet red bean filling, in that the manju is made of wheat, rice or other type of flour and has a cake-like consistency versus the chewy and stickier rice cake which is made of glutinous flours.
Traditional manju filling consists of a sweet red bean filling, known as anko, also referred to as tsubuan, for red bean paste with a coarse texture, or koshian, for red bean paste with a smooth texture. However, manju fillings are not limited to sweet red bean paste and may include fillings made of cream, such as vanilla, chocolate, or even flavored creams such as strawberry, mango, blueberry, or yuzu. Other fillings may include fillings made of sweet chestnut paste or white beans.
While there are several options for different manju fillings, there are also different flavors available for the exterior manju cake. The most popular option is a matcha or green tea flavored cake. Other flavors may depend on the region of Japan from which the manju originates. Almost each region of Japan has their own specific version of manju.
- For sweet red bean filling, purchase pre-made anko, or koshian (smooth red bean pasted) from the refrigerated section of Japanese or asian grocery stores, or in shelf-stable cans. Follow this link for a homemade sweet red bean recipe.
- Manju are best enjoyed when eaten immediately after they are made. Most, if refrigerated will not retain their original texture or flavor.
Article Edited by Judy Ung
- 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 cup sugar (granulated)
- 2/3 - 3/4 cup water
- 3/4 pound anko (or koshian, smooth red bean paste)
- In a large bowl, sift flour and baking powder together.
- Next, add sugar to the bowl and mix well.
- Gradually pour water into the flour, constantly stirring to incorporate ingredients.
- Knead the dough well until smooth and pliable.
- Divide the dough into 12 pieces. Make round balls and flatten them.
- Put a spoonful of anko filling in the center of the dough. Wrap the anko by stretching the dough around and then shape it into a round ball. Repeat, to make more.
- Place each piece on a small sheet of parchment paper.
- Preheat a steamer on high heat. Place cakes in the steamer, and steam for about 10 minutes. Serve immediately.