Japanese Winter Series #5 – Shiratama-Zenzai 白玉ぜんざい – Sweet red-bean soup with sticky-rice ball

Japanese Winter Series #5 – Shiratama-Zenzai 白玉ぜんざい – Sweet red-bean soup with sticky-rice ball

by Maki Watson

Zenzai is a very traditional Japanese dessert soup made with ‘azuki’ beans and ‘mochi’, or glutinous rice cake. For ‘shiratama zenzai’, we’re making a particular kind of mochi known as ‘shiratama dango’ – shiratama translates directly as ’round white jewel’, and dango being the name for very popular glutinous rice balls that are commonly served on a stick covered in sweet soy sauce!

It might sound a little strange, but the combination of soft and sweet bean, and chewy springy textured mochi or dango in a sweet soup is heavenly! Zenzai is usually served hot and is a popular dessert or snack in winter, but I like cooling it in the fridge where it transforms into a delicious summer treat.

Making zenzai is simple and easy, it involved just boiling together the few ingredients. Making the shiratama dango is also pretty easy, and fun!

Azuki contain a variety of nutritional benefits such as use for detoxication, anaemia prevention,
oedema prevention, healthy blood flow, hangover fighter, fatigue fighter lower blood
pressure… If you’re concerned about your health and beauty but crave sweets, why don’t you try azuki

I reckon zenzai is the best starter for making Japanese sweets. I hope you enjoy this amazing snack.

Please enjoy this final recipe in the series that was developed as part of our ‘Itadakimaaasu! Japanese Cooking Workshop’, which was held at the Co-op back in July, when winter (and not COVID) was in fuller flight!

Ingredients with an ‘*’ are available for purchase (when in season) at The Food Co-op! Order them online here.

Recipes quantities are for serving 2 people.

Dango 団子 – Sticky-rice ball

Glutinous rice flour – 30 g
Water – 30 ml
*Raw sugar – 8 g

1. Combine flour, sugar and water in a bowl and mix.
2. Using your hand, press the mixture and form it into a ball until the texture of the dough is like an ‘earlobe’.
3. Roll the ball to form a log.
4. Pinch or cut the dough making small balls.
5. Cook the dango in boiling water for about 2 minutes.
6. When the dango starts to float, pick them up and drop into icey water to let them cool.

Shiratama-Zenzai – 白玉ぜんざい


*Azuki beans – 100 g
*Sugar – 60 – 80 g
*Salt – a pinch
Water – 500 ml
Dango (from recipe above) – 6


1. Wash azuki beans and put on to boil in a pot.
2. Once boiling, turn down the heat.
3. When the colour of the water has turned pink, turn off the heat and discard the cooking water using strainer.
4. Return azuki beans to the pot and add 500ml of water and heat.
5. After 30 minutes, check if the azuki beans are cooked. When they are soft, add sugar and salt.
6. Put the dango into a serving bowl and pour the bean soup over them.
7. Itadakimaaasu!