Enjoy Anko Overseas

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Sweet Beans Is Japanese Culture!

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Finnish People vs. Anko

Sweetening beans seems to be an unfamiliar cooking method to Finnish people. Whenever I try to explain it to them, they always ask me back, “Beans are sweet?” I strongly feel the question, “Why make it a dessert? Beans must be savory!” But when I tell them that you Finns sweeten rice and eat it with berries and chocolate, which we don’t do in Japan, they understand, and when they try it, the response is not bad. Of course, they are open for new taste.

Check the Type of Beans

I summarized what the beans we use in Japan are called in English and Finnish in this article.

Japanese Beans and Beans in Finland
Japanese eat beans a lot like anko. Here is a list of the Japanese beans names and how to read them, and their names in English and Finnish.

Tasty Anko, Made from Dried Beans

The Most Standard Azuki Anko

Now, when we talk about anko, we are talking about anko using azuki. I have been cooking azuki anko since I was in Japan, so as long as I can find the azuki, I am good to go. By the way, even if I make it myself, I don’t eat that much. I just love to cook anko.

First, I looked for azuki beans. I couldn’t find them even in the big supermarkets, so I visited an Asian market.I found azuki beans sold under the name ADUKIPAVUT. It used to be available at a natural food store that sells it by weight all over Finland, but unfortunately it seems to have gone out of business.

As soon as I got home, I started cooking. I used the same cooking method as usual and got azuki anko without a hitch. I used the anko for Joulutorttu, a Finnish Christmas staple, and it was a hit with the Finnish people. One thing I need to say, we were all completely drunk, though.

How to Cook Anko, Japanese Sweet Bean Paste
Anko, sweet beans paste, made by slow-boiling azuki beans, is indispensable for Japanese sweets. It goes well with both bread and pie.
Joulutorttu, Finnish Traditional Christmas Pastry
Nordic bakery made from puff pastry dough. It’s filled with plum jam and decorated with powder sugar. A Christmas recipe.

I Want White Anko Next

Now that I’ve got the azuki anko, I want to try white anko, shiro an in Japanese. Or rather, I want to make white anko.

The material for white bean paste is navy beans, and I’ve been looking for dried ones, but I couldn’t find any in the supermarket or Asian market. I couldn’t just give up here, so I made the very bold decision to buy butter beans, thinking that since they were the same white beans, they would be fine. I later found out that they are related spieces, so my bold decision turned out to be a good one, this time.

When I got home, I soaked the butter beans in water overnight and started cooking. I don’t know the exact water absorption rate (reversion rate) of butter beans, but if it’s not much different from other beans, it’s probably about 2.5 times. However, since butter beans are large, they tend to come out of the water when the water level decreases. Be sure to add enough water.

White Anko and Matcha Anko with Butter Beans
I made white anko with butter beans, and it turned out to be delicious. A little tip, add matcha green tea to make matcha anko.

The reason I wanted white anko was because I wanted to pair it with chocolate flavored bread. This is a Japanese flavored version of the Finnish Laskiaispulla.

Japanese flavoured Laskiaispulla
Laskiaispulla, semla in Swedish, is eaten mainly on Shrove Tuesday. Here are peculiar Japanese flavoured Laskiaspullas with Anko and Matcha.

Matcha Anko Is Easy Now

If you can make white anko, you can easily make matcha anko, matcha an in Japanese. All you have to do is add matcha to white anko. Fortunately, matcha has become somewhat popular, and you can buy imported matcha at large supermarkets in Finland. Of course, the price is high.

K-Ruoka.fi – Forsman matcha vihreä teejauhe 40g luomu
Forsman matcha vihreä teejauhe 40g luomu, 6411020066053, alkuperämaa: Kiina, Vihreä irtotee

Of the three, azuki, white and matcha anko, matcha anko is my favorite by far, so I took matcha anko as my snack. By the way, I also used Laskiaispulla for this matcha anko.

Japanese flavoured Laskiaispulla
Laskiaispulla, semla in Swedish, is eaten mainly on Shrove Tuesday. Here are peculiar Japanese flavoured Laskiaspullas with Anko and Matcha.
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Anko with Boiled Beans

Azuki Anko with Boiled Black Beans?

Since I was very satisfied with making white anko with butter beans, I wanted to make anko more easily. Come to think of it, supermarkets sell all kinds of beans in water. Wouldn’t it be easier to make anko using boiled beans? Maybe black beans could be a substitute for azuki beans? I made another bold decision.

K-Ruoka.fi – Pirkka mustapavut suolaliemessä 380g/230g
Pirkka mustapavut ovat sellaisenaan käyttövalmiita, eikä niitä tarvitse keittää. Valuta pavut siivilässä ja huuhdo...

I quickly checked the ingredients of boiled black beans, and they were black beans and salt. I don’t need salt, but the salt enhances the sweetness of anko, and a little bit of salt is fine. I tasted it, made sure that the salt tastes very weak, then strained it, boiled it down, and made it into anko.

The resulting anko looked almost like kosi an, strained azuki anko puree. I thought this might be a great discovery, so I tried it and found that it tasted completely like white anko. I thought it was azuki anko, but the taste is white anko. My brain was so confused.In the end, I was reminded that what azuki-an needs is not its color, but its unique flavor. Even though that’s what we already know, we can understand more deeply with experience when we actually try it.

By the way, I also tried to make tsubu an, azuki anko with particles, so I cooked in a food processor without removing the skin, but it was not so good.

White Anko with Boiled Navy Beans

Now, the anko with black beans was unfortunately a failure, but in the market, next to the black beans, there were water-boiled voipavut, meaning white beans, on sale. If black beans can taste like white anko, wouldn’t it be perfectly white anko if I used white beans? I looked it up and found out that these beans, sold as white beans in Finnish, are navy beans. In other words, they are the very ingredients for white bean paste.

K-Ruoka.fi – Pirkka isot valkoiset pavut suolaliemessä 380g/230g
Pirkka isot valkoiset pavut ovat sellaisenaan käyttövalmiita, eikä niitä tarvitse keittää. Valuta pavut siivilässä ja...

It was a bit of a detour, but I met you, navy beans. By the way, these white beans are called “navy beans” in English. They are not white beans. Anyway, I made white anko with these boiled white beans.

White, Green and Matcha Anko with Canned Navy Beans and Peas
The easiest recipe for anko using canned beans. You can use navy beans for white and matcha anko, and green peas for green anko, uguisu an.

It looks like white bean paste, and to my surprise, it tastes completely white bean paste too. I started by soaking the butter beans in water, leaving them overnight, and boiling them slowly, and finally arrived at the true white anko with real ingredients. Incidentally, I also tried making it in a food processor to save the time of straining. What I felt was that since what important for koshi an, strained anko puree, is a smooth texture. The procedure of straining it carefully cannot be omitted, no matter how much work it is.

Uguisu Anko with Boiled Green Peas

At this point, I was only driven by the desire to make various kinds of anko. I looked up the different types of anko and the beans used to make them, and just kept making them. Did you know that green peas are used for anko?

Japanese Beans and Beans in Finland
Japanese eat beans a lot like anko. Here is a list of the Japanese beans names and how to read them, and their names in English and Finnish.

To tell you the truth, even though I love to cook, I am conservative when it comes to taste and have never tried uguisu anko, green anko before. But the uguisu-an I made myself was fantastic. I think it may be my favorite anko of all anko.

White, Green and Matcha Anko with Canned Navy Beans and Peas
The easiest recipe for anko using canned beans. You can use navy beans for white and matcha anko, and green peas for green anko, uguisu an.

Homemade Anpan with Handmade Anko

Now, I produced a lot of Anko. I wanted to make bread with them, so I decided to make Anpan. In general, Anpan is made by wrapping Anko in bread. Although it looks easy, it is actually very difficult to wrap Anko neatly. So this time, I decided to make the recipe with easy way to form, and good looking.

Anpan, Japanese Anko Bread
Anpan is one of the most popular Japanese bread. Normal anpan is a bun filled with anko. This recipe is for delicious and cute anpan.

Enjoy Anko Overseas

Dried azuki beans can be found in Asian markets. Unfortunately, I have not found a way to make azuki anko easily at this time. However, if you use canned beans, you can easily make various kinds of anko, such as white anko, matcha anko, and uguisu anko. Please give it a try.

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