The most delicious manju is the one you make yourself.

One of the most quintessential Japanese sweets is the manju. They come in many varieties but at their core, they’re a ball of mellow sweet bean paste wrapped in a delectably soft dough. It’s one of those snacks so steeped in tradition and associated with old-fashioned shops and hot springs, that it doesn’t often occur to people that they can even make manju at home.

However, not only is it possible, but it’s also pretty easy to whip up a batch of these sweet treats in your own kitchen with the main ingredient being mere hotcake mix. There are lots of recipes and videos online that show how, such as this one.

But since it’s all in Japanese it might be hard for some people to follow. So, let’s all go through the process step-by-step in English, starting with the ingredients. Everything you’ll need is in this picture: milk (30 milliliters / 1 ounce), hotcake mix (100 grams / 3.5 ounces), sweet bean paste (400 grams / 14 ounces), and sugar (70 grams / 2.5).

The measurements will probably need some fine-tuning depending on your own preferences. For example, we ended up knocking the sugar way down to 20 grams (0.7 ounces), since the hotcake mix and beans would provide a lot of sweetness on their own.

“Sweet bean paste” can come in different varieties as well. Most recipes call for “koshian” which is filtered to a very smooth paste. However, we used “tsubuan” which still has chunks of bean in the paste. But much like the difference between creamy and crunchy peanut butter, the flavor is basically the same. It’s mainly just a textural preference.

First mix the mix, sugar, and milk in a bowl.

Congratulations! Your manju dough is now ready. It’s just that simple.

After that we wrapped it in plastic and let it sit for a while at room temperature. Strangely the recipe didn’t say how long, but we did it for about two hours. The key point is that the dough becomes noticeably smoother and swells a bit.

Next, make an equal number of little balls of dough and bean paste. Each dough ball should be about 10 grams (0.35 ounces) and the bean balls should be around 20 grams (0.7 ounces).

Up until now, this has been a hotcake walk, but things get a little tricky when it comes to assembly. The video shows the dough balls being flattened by hand and then wrapped around the bean ball.

However, whenever we tried it, the beans kept poking through the dough, breaking it. This may have been because of our own clumsiness or because we went with the more coarse tsubuan, but either way we broke out the rolling pin for more reliable results.

It still wasn’t perfect, but it’d do. From there all we needed to do was steam these little guys in a pot at high heat for 20 minutes. If you’re using a professional steamer, it’ll probably take much less time, so be sure to adjust accordingly.

Once done, let the cooked manju cool down before eating. We found this to be the second most difficult part of the recipe, because they smelled so good.

We admit, they don’t look exactly like professionally made manju that you’d find in traditional Japanese confectionary stores, but they sure did taste just as good!

If you can’t eat the whole thing in one sitting, then just pop the rest in the fridge or freezer. Don’t wait too long though. We found that the outer surface got a little hard over time, so if possible, eat them all right after cooking for maximum enjoyment.

And so, now you know how to make a traditional Japanese confection. Use this knowledge wisely…or don’t. I mean, I have half a mind to make a giant rice cooker manju now, so I can’t very well advise any of you to exercise restraint.

Source: Wagashi no Waseda-ya
Photos ©SoraNews24
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