One of the most interesting things for me when I travel abroad is the cuisine. I love going to supermarkets, trying the local restaurants or just buying a snack on the go whenever I see something delicious. The other day I was strolling through Nakasu-Kawabata in downtown Fukuoka when I found Kawabata Zenzai, a small restaurant which serves anko (餡子), or red bean paste. I’ve had a lot of anko during my visits to Japan, but this was the first time I saw an anko restaurant. Beyond question, I had to check it out.
Anko is a paste made from red adzuki beans. They are boiled, mashed and sweetened with sugar or honey and you will mainly find them in Japanese confectionery. I’ve heard often that many people think it’s strange to eat beans as a sweet dish, but if you haven’t tried it yet, you should definitely do so. Whether you're a fan of red bean paste already or you're up for trying it, go on and pay Kawabata Zenzai a visit!
Anko can be classified into different types according to its consistency. The main variations are:
Tsubuan (粒餡): the whole beans are cooked and sweetened
Tsubushian (潰し餡): the beans are cooked, sweetened and mashed
Koshian (漉し餡): the beans are cooked, sweetened, mashed, and the bean skins are strained out
Sarahian (晒し餡): dried koshian, which can be reconstituted with water
At Kawabata Zenzai you actually don’t have to worry about choice, as there is only one dish: zenzai (ぜんざい), a soup made from tsubushian. Your order comes with two mochi (rice cakes) in the soup, some pickled radish and tea. The shop has a few tables, so you can eat in and enjoy the view of a branch of the Naka River. I enjoyed my zenzai very much and liked the combination of the sweet bean soup and the sour pickles.
One serving of zenzai is ¥500 and the vending machine for the tickets is easy to understand. The white buttons are for eat in, the yellow ones for take out. There are buttons for one bowl of soup, two bowls or five bowls. If you don’t understand how the machine works, the friendly staff will immediately come and help you, as I observed several times while I was enjoying my zenzai.