“Anko” Red Bean Paste Used To Be Salty
Anko red bean paste is closely linked to Japanese culinary culture and life as seen in the ohagi rice cake offered to the god on the Autumnal Equinox Day. Anko is said to have originated from a dish of the Yayoi prehistoric era, which was made of azuki red beans. Red beans were believed to remove the negative spirits with their red color and consumed in prayer for a perfect state of health and against evil. After Chinese dim sum dishes were introduced, red beans began to be often mashed up for consumption as they are today, but unlike today, they are commonly believed to have been made salty in those days and eaten by monks as a substitute for meat.
Red bean mash was first made sweet between the Muromachi and Azuchi-Momoyama eras. This was when tea ceremony became popular among samurai warriors and nobles and when Japanese confectionery was developed as a result. Anko red bean paste with sugar added became common in this cultural trend to be served with tea. In the Edo era, the volume of imported sugar increased through trade with Spain and Portugal, and the government promoted domestic production of sugar as well. Some of the confections that are still consumed today, such as dora-yaki pancakes and yokan red bean jelly, were invented at this time and were widely and delightedly accepted by the general public.