Zenzai with Mochi (Japan)

By Ayako Hata


Zenzai, also known as "dango", is a sweet soup made of red beans (azuki), and often served with Mochi (rice cake). It is an ancient Japanese recipe believed to bring happiness and dispel illness and evil.

The word “Zenzai”, which originated from Buddhism, means to be joyful and celebrate. In many parts of Japan, Zenzai is traditionally served on New Year’s Day, which is regarded as the most auspicious day.

Mochi is used both in savory and sweet dishes and is traditionally considered as divine food. It is usually made from sweet rice (also called Mochi rice) cooked and pounded until it becomes a paste that is very sticky and smooth, then formed into cakes or blocks.

Ingredients (Serves 4)

  • 1 cup azuki beans
  • 1 ¼ cups sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 0.5 kg.  (16 ounce) box mochiko sweet rice flour


  1. Pick over and wash the azuki, then put them in a pan with 6 cups of water. Bring to boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 2 hours until the beans are soft.
  2. Add more water to the pan to make the liquid up to 5 cups (some of the water will have evaporated during cooking). Add the sugar and salt and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Meanwhile, make the dumplings: Mix the mochiko with enough water to make a stiff dough. Knead well, then pinch off tiny portions to form small balls, about the size of marbles. Make a small indentation in the side of each dumpling.
  4. Bring the azuki soup back to the boil, then drop the dumplings into the soup. Cook until the dumplings rise to the surface. Divide between warmed individual bowls. Serve hot.