If you are like me, you are always on the hunt for something unique and sweet to give a try. Japan is among one of the best countries if you are a dessert lover. This post will cover 5 of my favorite Japanese sweets to try. I’ll probably have to do a comprehensive post at some point as it is so hard to narrow down sweets!
Manju are probably my favorite Japanese sweet of all! Like most Japanese buns, manju originally came from China. It comes in a variety of flavors and sizes, but is essentially a mochi or steamed bun filled with a sweet bean or other filling. The most common filling is typically an azuki or ahn red bean paste (though I have seen some peanut butter varieties)! Manju in Japan can greatly differ than that found within the US.
Have you ever seen a fish shaped cake that had absolutely nothing to do with fish? Taiyaki is exactly that (literally translating as “sea brimmed cake.” Created in Japan in 1909, this dessert, always shaped like a fish, and is make from a pancake batter. The inside, like manju, most commonly comes with a red azuki bean filling. In more popular tourist areas, you may see chocolate, custard, cheese, nutella, strawberry or other unique fillings. Chocolate happens to be my favorite!
Yet another pancake looking sweet! Dorayaki, like taiyaki is made from pancake batter and typically contains (you guessed it) azuki filling! Think of this sweet like a mini pancake burger. The outside is made from Castella, a bread that made its way to Japan in the 16th century thanks to the Portuguese. Dorayaki was a favorite dessert of the samurai. You may also hear this dessert referred to as a Mikasa. In the Kansai region of Japan, the dorayaki has its on regional specialty.
Not my personal favorite, dango is a very popular festival dessert that is a sweet rice or mochi ball given flavor from whatever is coated on it. There are hundreds of different options. It is very popular with green tea and usually comes with about 4 or 5 pieces on a skewer. Don’t let the colors fool you, the flavor of the dango are usually the same. The outside are colored differently based on the dyes used to make it more fun. I find it kind of bland.
Yes, I know a crepe is not Japanese in origin, but crepes in Japan are an entirely different level than anywhere else in the world. In Tokyo alone you will find countless shops with some that that sell over 100 different variations. They are more than happy to custom order to you, but I like to stick with the variations in the window. Harajuku has my personal favorite collection of crepe specialty shops. Anything with green tea or matcha and vanilla is my go to.
Sorry if I’ve disappointed you, but there is no way I can possibly cover the many, many different types of Japanese sweets out there for you to try. I’d probably go crazy trying to cover them. This is a very small selection of 5 of the desserts I tend to see (and enjoy) the most when out and about. I’ll cover more in a future post, but on your next trip to Japan, keep your eye out for these yummies! Until next time, happy travels!