Manjū (pronounced mahn-joo) is a Japanese dessert similar to mochi, but made with flour instead of rice. Traditionally, it contains sweet bean paste.

Until recently, I didn’t care for this Japanese treat. But when I finally had the opportunity to make it myself, my opinion changed completely. Just as homemade cookies are much tastier than store-bought, homemade manjū don’t compare to anything else. My family makes kuri manjū – a light-colored, sweet baked bread with smooth white bean paste on the inside.

Shiro-an [she-ro-ahn]: White Bean Paste

manjū

Photo courtesy of bohnenhase.blogspot.de

Traditionally, the white bean paste is made from scratch with a base of lima beans, sugar, water, and a dash of salt. This process is very simple, but time-consuming, and requires a careful eye. It takes between one and two hours for the bean paste to reach the proper consistency under constant stirring.

Alternatively, the white bean paste can be made in the microwave with 4-minute intervals. This does not take nearly as much time and minimizes scorching problems.

When making the bean paste on the stove, you may notice a color change from the beginning paste to the end product. This is normal.

Manjū Dough

manjū

Photo by Samantha Teshima

The dough used for manjū makes manjū different from mochi. Manjū is a bread-like pastry while mochi is a rice cake “pastry” with a chewy, soft-gel consistency. The shiro-an can be used as filling in mochi if desired to make a dessert similar to daifuku.

Shiro-an [She-ro-ahn]: White Bean Paste

  • Prep Time:Overnight + 1 hour
  • Cook Time:2-3 hours
  • Total Time:Overnight + 4 hours
  • Servings:1 batch
  • Medium

    Ingredients

  • 1 pound lima beans
  • 2 1/2 cup sugar
  • Dash of salt
  • Water (as needed)
Photo by Samantha Teshima
Photo by Samantha Teshima

Step 1

Soak lima beans in water overnight, or at least 6 hours.

Step 2

Remove tough outer skin. Although it is a tedious process, it ensures a smooth bean paste.

Gif by Samantha Teshima
Gif by Samantha Teshima

Step 3

Change water before cooking. Don’t start off cooking the beans using too much water (beans retain water easily).

Step 4

Cook beans over low heat for at least 1 hour until beans are soft and easily mashable. Make sure to use enough water so the beans do not scorch. Stir often to prevent burning.

#SpoonTip: If you have a slow-cooker, you can use that instead.

Photo by Samantha Teshima
Photo by Samantha Teshima

Step 5

Drain water and put beans in a food processor, or mash, to eliminate lumps and pieces until you achieve a smooth paste. The paste should retain some water.

Photo by Samantha Teshima
Photo by Samantha Teshima

Step 6

Add a dash of salt and the 2 ½ cups of sugar. Mix thoroughly. Paste will become more watery.

Photo by Samantha Teshima
Photo by Samantha Teshima

Step 7

Simmer over low heat for about 1 hour (cooking times may vary), stirring constantly, until the paste becomes dry enough to reach a thick consistency. The paste should be dry enough to be manipulated with hands to form a ball shape (aim for a moist cookie dough consistency).

Photo by Samantha Teshima
Photo by Samantha Teshima

Step 8

Alternatively, you can put the bean paste in the microwave at 4 minute intervals until the consistency is reached.

Step 9

Let it cool. The shiro-an will continue to dry a bit more after cooling.

Step 10

The recipe can be doubled if desired. Shiro-an can last up to 6 months in the freezer. Thaw overnight in the fridge before use.

Manjū Dough

  • Prep Time:1 hour
  • Cook Time:10 minutes
  • Total Time:1 hour 10 minutes
  • Servings:About 3 dozen pieces
  • Medium

    Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 stick butter (melted)
  • 3/4 cup evaporated milk
  • 2 cup sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 6 cup flour
  • 2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 egg, egg yolk, milk (egg wash)
Photo by Samantha Teshima
Photo by Samantha Teshima

Step 1

Cream butter, sugar, eggs, and evaporated milk.

Photo by Samantha Teshima
Photo by Samantha Teshima

Step 2

Add flour and baking soda. Mix. The batter should be the consistency of a soft cookie dough.

Photo by Samantha Teshima
Photo by Samantha Teshima

Step 3

Flour a clean surface liberally. With floured hands, place dough on surface and shape into a log approximately 5 inches long.

Photo by Samantha Teshima
Photo by Samantha Teshima

Step 4

Using a pastry cutter, slice off 1 inch pieces.

Step 5

With the dough, flatten out and form an oval shape big enough for the shiro-an to fit.

Photo by Samantha Teshima
Photo by Samantha Teshima

Step 6

Carefully fit the dough over the shiro-an oval and pinch the ends together.

Step 7

Be careful not to let the dough rip. It helps to cradle the ball of dough in one hand and close the ends together with the other hand.

#SpoonTip: You may need to reform the ovular shape of the manjū.

Step 8

Place the manjū about 2 inches apart from each other. Brush with the egg wash. Bake at 400ºF for 10 minutes or until lightly golden brown.

Photo by Samantha Teshima
Photo by Samantha Teshima