Tofu, yuzu, matcha, azuki beans and kinako; not only are these ingredients the basis for some mouth-wateringly delicious desserts, but our ‘fab five’ also have some great health benefits. In this blog post we’ll introduce you to the nutritional benefits of each ingredient and suggest some tasty and easy-to-follow recipes, so you can treat yourself to some glorious Japanese style puddings in the comfort of your own home. From pancakes and parfaits to cookies and cheesecakes, our Japan Centre desserts include plenty of vegan options too!
Tofu is made from soy milk and is a low-fat, low-calorie ingredient which contains all the essential amino acids that help our bodies to function properly. Tofu is rich in protein, iron, calcium and other vitamins and minerals. Although you may associate tofu with savoury dishes, it also works well in desserts by absorbing flavours and balancing out the sweetness and richness of other ingredients. With a texture similar to cheese, tofu is available in firm through to silken (soft) varieties making it a versatile ingredient that can be used in all sorts of dessert dishes, from milkshakes to pancakes.
Matcha is made from powdered green tea leaves, and has a vibrant emerald colour and unique, earthy taste. It was traditionally mixed with hot water and served during tea ceremonies alongside small sweets made from rice paste (wagashi). When used as an ingredient for desserts and sweet treats, matcha balances out the sugariness and adds an extra layer of flavour. It’s also a fantastic addition to western style recipes such as cheesecakes and cookies, to give them a Japanese twist. As well as being delicious, matcha is also jam packed full of nutritional benefits. It contains L-Theanine, an amino acid that helps you to stay alert without the caffeine crash associated with coffee. It also has more antioxidants than 10 cups of regular green tea combined!
Yuzu is a winter citrus fruit which tastes like a cross between a lemon, orange and grapefruit. The juice, seeds and peel can be used in a variety of different dessert dishes from ice creams to preserves. Like other citrus fruits, yuzu has a tart, zesty taste which complements richer, more sugary ingredients. Yuzu has sensory benefits too, with many people finding that its citrusy fragrance has soothing properties which reduce anxiety and help to provide a sense of calm. Yuzua also contains antioxidants such as Vitamin-C which help to support a healthy immune system.
Kinako is made from roasted soybean flour and is a perfect addition to sweet dishes due to its delicate and slightly nutty taste. Soybeans contain the essential amino acids needed for healthy bone and muscle growth, as well as B-vitamins, potassium, iron and protein. Soybeans are fibre rich and can help maintain a healthy gut and improve digestion. Kinako works well in all sorts of sweet recipes and you’ll find that its earthy flavour is a delicious addition to your recipes to balance out the sweetness of rich or sugary desserts.
AZUKI RED BEANS
Azuki (red) beans are a staple ingredient in Japanese desserts and treats. Like other Japanese dessert ingredients, they have a slightly savoury taste which complements and balances out sweetness. Azuki beans are macrobiotic and high in fibre which is great news for your digestive system! They are also packed with potassium and iron. When boiled, mashed and mixed with sugar to form a paste, they are often used to fill pancakes and mochi. Azuki beans are also used as the base for sweet soups which can be chilled for a summer treat or enjoyed hot on a chilly winter’s day.
Enjoy all this and more by shopping in-store at Japan Centre Leicester Square, Westfield London and Westfield Stratford City. Alternatively you can get fresh produce delivered straight to your door by shopping online at the Japan Centre website.
Words by Emily Lovell