It’s the year of the Monkey and in celebration here is something sweet to eat!


Zenzai is a dessert that can be enjoyed year round and, of course, in winter it is served hot. In some parts of Japan, zenzai or oshiruko お汁粉 (the more watery version of zenzai) is served as the New Year’s main soup dish known as Ozōni お雑煮 (though most Ozōni consists of a variation of meat, vegetables, miso, and mochi). The zenzai is topped with either mochi 餅 or shiratama dango 白玉団子, which marks its main difference with its Chinese cousin, the much more watery hóng dòu tāng 紅豆汤.




½ Cup Anko (red bean) canned or in a packet


½ Cup Water


A pinch of Salt


1+ Mochi


Sugar (to taste)


Note: dried red beans can also be used to make this, but it requires soaking the beans overnight and boiling them for hours on end.




  1. Mix together the anko and water in a pot and bring to a boil. Add in a pinch of salt, mix well and turn off the heat.


Tip: Adjust the sweetness to your taste by adding sugar if it’s not sweet enough or water if it’s too sweet.


  1. Place a mochi or two or three into the toaster oven and toast ‘til they puff up and are golden brown. The time it takes will vary from oven to oven, but about four minutes at 230°C should do the trick.


  1. Transfer the soup mixture into a bowl and top with the mochi.


  1. Wrap yourself in a warm blanket, sit down (preferably under a toasty kotatsu) and enjoy.


Variations: In summer, let cool, refrigerate and serve cold. In fall, if you’re feeling extra fancy, top the warm zenzai with roasted chestnut halves.


Have a Happy and Prosperous New Year!