Sweet Young Soybean Zunda Mochi

Itadakimono: Toru, one of my best friends is in Kyoto and as always he brings me some zunda mochi. He lives up north in the city of Sendai and Sendai is famous for zunda mochi. I still remember when I arrived in Japan, I went up to Sendai to see Toru and he took me to a famous ‘shinise’ zunda mochi shop. I liked this dish so much I ordered another after finishing it! Zunda mochi is not just sweet, it has a fresh and ‘green’ taste and is very, very delicious.

Wagashi: Sendai Meibutsu Zunda Mochi 仙台名物 ずんだ餅

Soft and Chewy Mochi Covered in Sweet Young Soybean Paste
Sendai is in the northern part of the main island, Honshu. This region is called Tohoku, literally ‘north east’ and is famous for many tasty things such as seafood, beef, sake, soba and apples, to name just a few. Zunda mochi is made with eda mame, young green soybeans. Eda mame are grown all over Japan but only in the Tohoku region is zunda mochi ubiquitous. It is part of the history and tradition of the region.

Eda mame, literally ‘stem bean’ because it is usually sold in bunches while still on the stalk, became popular in the Edo era about 250 years ago with the rise of the urban merchant class. It is usually a snack or appetizer and boiled, salted and chilled goes well with beer in summer. (I like to use eda mame to make this rice dish.)

To make zunda mochi, young eda mame soybeans are harvested about 3 months before the normal harvest time. They are blanched and shelled and then ground into a chunky paste in a suribachi mortar. The paste is simply sweetened with sugar and a little salt. Fresh, soft and chewy mochi is covered with the thick chunky paste. Very simple! If you can get fresh mochi abroad, you ought to be able to make this dish easily.

Sweet Young Soybean Zunda Mochi
Wagashi: Sendai Meibutsu Zunda Mochi 仙台名物 ずんだ餅

Sweet Young Soybean Zunda Mochi
Wagashi: Sendai Meibutsu Zunda Mochi 仙台名物 ずんだ餅

Zunda Mochi – detail
Wagashi: Sendai Meibutsu Zunda Mochi 仙台名物 ずんだ餅

How Does Zunda Mochi Taste?
The fresh, young, green soybeans don’t taste anything like mature soybeans or tofu. The taste is just like the color: green! While the paste tastes somewhat ‘beany’, it is more fruity and fresh in taste than you might expect. The point is fresh ingredients, quick preparation and a bit of sweetness, but not too much. The salt that is usually added cannot be tasted.

The chunky texture of the paste is a wonderful contrast to the soft mochi.

This is another Japanese dish that I think we could adopt and adapt to Western cooking and tastes.

Sendai Omiyage
At omiyage shops all over Sendai this mochi is for sale. For tourists and business travelers it is packaged frozen and by the time you arrive back home in several hours to half a day it ought to be thawed out and perfect for eating. Mochi starts to harden soon after being made and the zunda fresh green soybean paste starts to discolor soon, so this omiyage should be eaten as soon as you arrive home or to the office.

The zunda mochi producers have taken their traditional regional mochi, developed modern handling and packaging techniques and made this omiyage into quite a business for the local economy. In that sense it is similar to Kyoto’s famed omiyage: Yatsuhashi. However, zunda mochi is enjoyed by locals too (unlike yatsuhashi in Kyoto) and freshness is of the essence.

Zunda Mochi Package, Fresh from Sendai
Wagashi: Sendai Meibutsu Zunda Mochi 仙台名物 ずんだ餅

Zunda Mochi Package
Wagashi: Sendai Meibutsu Zunda Mochi 仙台名物 ずんだ餅

Zunda Mochi Package
Wagashi: Sendai Meibutsu Zunda Mochi 仙台名物 ずんだ餅

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6 Responses to “Sweet Young Soybean Zunda Mochi”

  1. Kathryn Hill says:

    Hi there – just came across your site via Sugarhead. I do some food blogging for Apartment Therapy’s blog, The Kitchn, and I’m a lover of food, wine, & travel. Was just in Kyoto last December and ate at Kikunoi, and went to the Nishiki Market three times! What a wonderful town you live in. (I also ate the tsukemono omakase at Nishikiri.)

  2. Wow, those look fun. The soy bean paste looks a lot like guacamole. I love mochi and “green-tasting” things, so I bet I would love these.

  3. Peko Peko says:

    Hello Kathryn Hill, Thanks for stopping by, I checked out your site and found this REALLY great looking Peach and Cornmeal Upside-Down Cake. I think I can get all the ingredients here.

    It sounds like you had a great time in Kyoto — three visits to Nishiki Market makes you a real foodie trooper. I used to dine a lot at Kikunoi, I prefer some other restaurants such as Kichisen for Kyoto kaiseki now but Kikunoi is a good place to get acquainted with the cuisine.

    Next time you are planning to visit Kyoto, please check out our Kyoto ‘Support’ forum.

    Hello The Wind Attack, It does indeed look like guacamole, I can’t believe that I didn’t realize that. Zunda mochi really is unique and doesn’t taste anything like soybeans. It really tastes ‘green’!

    Speaking of green, I love the recipe for Avocado Coconut Ice Cream on your site. I would like to try that one!

  4. Greg says:

    Wow this looks tasty, I would be so spoiled if I loved in Japan.
    In the US finding different varieties of Mochi is nearly impossible, and in my town we have no Japanese specialty stores.

  5. Kathryn Hill says:

    I’m just finding this comment now! Thanks for the recommendation on Kichisen, I will bookmark it for my next visit. Perhaps next time I am in Kyoto we can meet and share a meal & talk about our mutual passions for food.

  6. [...] with an enormous amount of seafood and tried the local specialities of barbecued beef tongue and zunda mochi – both of which were great. Whilst walking around sampling these delicacies, I came across [...]

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