Here we are, almost to the end of April, and still feeling as though we have only begun to scratch the surface on what Japanese food culture has to offer. Far beyond the sushi and tempura that most Western people associate it with, Japanese food offers a vibrant mix of many simple dishes, filled with unique colors and flavors. As with almost any country with a rich and diverse food culture, to truly understand all of the intricacies would take far longer than only one month.
Of course, along the way, we had to explore the different varieties of delicious desserts, and kept coming across this at once familiar, yet still unique recipe: Coffee jelly. A favorite throughout Japan, served in most coffee shops and restaurants, coffee jelly, called kohii zerii in Japanese, has the flavor of a slightly sweetened black coffee, and the texture of jello. Often served by itself with a small amount of whipped cream, or condensed milk, or added to an ice cream dessert, coffee jelly is also often added to hot or iced coffee drinks. Imagine walking into your local Starbucks, and alongside the lists of fancy frappuccinos and lattes, finding this unique treat. Unlike the way most of us think of dessert, served after, or alongside lunch or dinner, dessert in Japan is much more commonly found as part of afternoon tea. Coffee jelly is also just as commonly eaten by itself, in place of the typical morning cup of coffee.
Similar to coffee jelly, mitsumame is another common Japanese dessert, which became popular around 100 years ago, made up of cubes of agar jelly, served alongside fresh fruit slices such as pineapple, peaches, and cherries. As we quickly discovered, mitsumame has a ton of different variations, including the one we decided to try, called coffee mitsumame, where the two different desserts of coffee jelly and mitsumame are combined.
For this recipe, you will need the following:
Coffee Jelly – Mitsumame:
- 2 cups good black coffee
- 3 Tbsp. evaporated cane juice
- 4 Tbsp. water
- 1 Tbsp. gelatin or agar-agar
- Fresh slices of pineapple, mango, peaches or cherries
- whipped cream or vanilla ice cream
- Pour the coffee into a saucepan along with the sugar. Slowly bring to a boil, stirring until all of the sugar is dissolved.
- In a separate bowl, mix the gelatin with the water until completely dissolved.
- Pour the gelatin mixture into the hot coffee mixture, stirring until completely blended. Then pour the coffee and gelatin mixture into a heat proof container, and store uncovered in the refrigerator until the gelatin is completely set.
- Once it is completely firm, cut the coffee jelly into cubes, and serve, topped with your choice of fresh fruit and whipped cream or ice cream, or simply by itself.
This recipe is extremely easy to make, and makes for an interesting and delicious twist on just your ordinary cup of coffee.
Itadakimasu! (Let’s Eat!)