Mitsumame: a summer dessert

I’m looking through my window at the jungle our garden has become, at the bunches of pale green tomatoes hanging heavily in the cool sunlight. The trees and the house are casting shadows narrower and angled more northward than they did only a month ago. The sunlight is thinner after traveling through more air at a steeper angle, providing ever less warmth as we move closer to the equinox.

I’m wearing a tee shirt but covered with a heavy sweater, long jeans, and fuzzy slippers. It’s only 50° (10°C) outside, but I’m reluctant to turn on the furnace—deluding myself: this is only a fluke, this coolness, and it will be warm again. Yes, it will. But those tomatoes had better hurry to redness…

I’ll admit that today’s recipe is not suitable for my weather. It’s a light and refreshing Japanese sweet to be enjoyed on a hot and humid summer day. (ok, I’ll admit my posts have been sparse and I made this a month ago…) But it makes me happy that somewhere it is warm enough that this recipe will be just the perfect cooling dish to invigorate melting flagging spirits / appetites.

Classic Agar-Agar Gelatin in Syrup

from: The Japanese Kitchen
•250 Recipes in a Traditional Spirit•
by Hiroko Shimbo
page 113
serves 4, generously
  • 1 bo kanten (agar-agar stick)
    or 1 packet kanten powder (4 grams)
  • 1 ¾ cups water
  • ½ cup sugar

  • prepare a 6-inch square mold
    Or, use a cleaned milk carton,
    or a square plastic food container.
  • 2 cups combined cubed fresh fruit such as
    cantaloupe, kiwi, peach, berries, watermelon, banana,…
  • 1 can red peas, optional—see note below!

• If you are using the agar-agar stick, tear it into pieces and soak in a bowl of cold water for 10 minutes. Drain and squeeze out the water.
• In a medium pot, combine the soaked go kanten or the kanten powder with the water. Cook over medium to low heat, stirring all the time (don’t splash the liquid up the sides of the pot or it will burn and stick): 6 to 8 minutes for the stick form, or 2 to 3 minutes for the powder.
• Add the sugar, and cook, stirring to dissolve.
• Ms. Shimbo suggests straining this mixture through a sieve, but I neglected this step. Wet the mold and shake out the water. Pour in the gelatin liquid. Let it cool to room temperature, then cover and chill.
Because the fresh fruit was so beautiful, I didn’t use the dried apricots. I put the fresh fruit into this cooled syrup.

  • 1 cup water and 1 cup sugar
  • ¼ pound dried apricots
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 4 scoops vanilla ice cream

• Combine 1 cup water and 1 cup sugar in a saucepan, bring to a boil and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Transfer to a bowl, cool to room temperature, then cover and chill.
• Put the apricots in a small saucepan, cover with water and stir in the ¼ cup sugar. Cook until the apricots are plump and tender but not mushy. Let the apricots cool room temperature in the syrup, then chill.
• Unmold the gelatin and cut it into ½-inch cubes. In a large bowl, combine the gelatin, fruit, apricots, and peas. Pour the syrup over the mixture and toss gently. Refrigerate, covered, for 1 hour.
Serve in small individual bowls with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

note: Mitsumami means “peas in sugar syrup.” According to Ms. Shimbo, the peas are a red variety with a naturally sweet and nutty flavor. She says they come packed in a small can, which can be found at Japanese food stores. I found some once, in a dented rusty can. I didn’t buy it. Used a spoonful of sweetened red bean paste instead: a texture at least.

Previously posted: Mitsumame 1, Mitsumame 2


6 thoughts on “Mitsumame: a summer dessert

  1. This sounds so delightful, Tess! All the different colors, tastes and textures. I will have to try this, if I can ever find agar-agar here in Mexico. I have never heard of red peas, but isn’t it great to learn of the foods of other countries.


    • Well, as I said, I’ve never found those mythical red peas except the one time in a dented can which I was afraid to buy. I just use the readily available sweet bean paste. I would love to have an opportunity to go to Japan…

      The rest of the recipe, is interesting to me because it has so many different textures united by smooth sweetness.

    • LOL They look gorgeous in the corner cabinet and even better with dessert in them…
      I love the Greek dress! I have a Flickr account but don’t remember my password so could not comment…

  2. my mouth started watering just looking at these delicious pictures. Oh how I wish I could reach through this screen for a taste!

    • It took me a long time to try this recipe when I first started Japanese cooking—sugar flavored jello didn’t appeal. But with the fruit, ice cream, and bean paste it works: a texture party in your mouth.

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