Yōkan (羊羹) is a Japanese confection made with agar agar, a seaweed gelatin, called kanten in Japanese cooking. My mother loves the stuff, but I never was as fond of it as the mochi. It is usually made with anko, azuki bean paste, or matcha, ground green tea, and can have things like persimmons, gingko nuts, or chestnuts suspended in it. Unlike jello, it can be stored at room temperature for long periods of time, so it is perfect for gift giving. It is commonly served with tea, just like daifuku.
|straining out the bean skins|
Second, I wanted to combat the problem with my first attempt's looks. While tasty, the lump of anko and chestnut looked funny sitting at the bottom of a clear anko. Most yōkan with chestnut and anko you see in Japan has the anko mixed with the kanten so it is opaque, to solve this aesthetic problem.
So this recipe is much more traditional in both looks and taste, and faster without any need to set several layers.
1 4oz packet of kanten (agar agar powder)
2 cups of water
1 can of anko
Slice the chestnuts into thin rounds. Dissolve the anko in water over low heat, stirring until there are no big lumps left. Strain to remove bean skins for a silkier texture. I removed most of the skins, but left some in. Don't fret if some are still in there, you just want to remove the bulk. Sift kanten into the saucepan of anko mixture, stirring thoroughly while doing so to avoid lumps. Once it is dissolved, pour into loaf pan and add the chestnuts. I used two loaf pans to make a thinner yōkan, but I think one loaf pan would be better. Refrigerate until firm. Invert the loaf pan to remove yōkan, and slice into desired sizes. You can serve at room temperature or chilled.
Ichigo Daifuku: Traditional Wagashi
Yokan Jellies with Anko and Chestnuts