bean paste (an) (餡)
Bean paste ('an' or 'anko') is an ingredient in manju (buns filled with bean paste) and usually indicates azuki beans or other ingredients boiled with sweeteners or ingredients gelatinized with starch.
Although 'an' usually refers to azuki bean paste made from boiled azuki beans, pastes made using other types of boiled beans are now also called 'an'. Bean paste was commonly flavored with salt in the past, but as the use of sugar became more widespread among people in modern times, sugared bean paste became the norm.
Furthermore, the paste on top of rice cakes also came to be called 'an', as is the liquid starch made from water added to starch and heated to form gelatin, which is used in food dressings like 'ankake'.
Conversely, although Western ingredients such as jams, cream (food), chocolate or peanut butter are wrapped inside cakes like 'an', these are not called 'an' but are considered something else.
In Chinese cooking 'an' refers to ingredients wrapped in a cake made of flour, but the practice of using boiled azuki beans in common cakes in place of other ingredients is thought to have spread from Buddhist temples, which forbade the eating of meat.
In China the type of 'an' used in cooking is called 'qiàn' and is a separate concept.
Azuki bean paste
This is the most common type of bean paste used in manju (cakes with bean paste), which are distinguished by the state of the skin of beans or whether there is a skin or not.
Tsubu-an, Ogura-an bean paste
These are types of bean paste made by boiling azuki with sugar.
The name originates from the chain of thought where azuki beans look like the dapples on a deer, and deer evoke Japanese maple leaves which evoke the famous Mt. Ogura (Kyoto).
Tsubushi-an (mashed bean paste)
This is 'tsubu-an' paste made by mashing beans.
Koshi-an (strained bean paste)
This is bean paste to which sugar has been added and the paste strained
Sarashi-an (powder bean paste)
This is bean paste from which the moisture has been evaporated to form a powder. It is reconstituted for use by adding water.
White bean paste (kidney beans or white azuki)
This 'an' has be so named because the color is different when compared with bean paste made using azuki beans. Although there are two types of bean paste, tsubu-an and koshi-an, the latter is the most common. It is also used as a wrapping in manju (bean cakes). Often it is used as a base for Japanese cakes called 'nerikiri' after adding other flavors and colors.
It is made from green soybeans and is a specialty of Miyagi Prefecture and Yamagata Prefecture.
Murasame and other names
Murasame-an is made by adding rice flour to koshi-an bean paste and mincing the ingredients.
Mung bean paste
Imo-an (potato paste), Sweet potato paste
Sweet lotus seed paste
White sesame paste, black sesame paste
Winter melon paste
Chinese date paste
This is paste made by boiling arrowroot starch in water. It is different from the other types of bean paste because it is not an ingredient but is used to bind foods such as mitarashi dumplings. Cheap cakes use starch from potatoes and other sources.
Sweets and others that use bean paste
Rice cakes (dumplings, ankoro-mochi, bota-mochi, abekawa-mochi)
Bread (bean paste bread, bean paste toast, donuts etc.)
Spring rolls (sweet rolls from Zhejiang Province in the People's Republic of China)
An' (fillings) used in cooking
Here is cooking that uses fillings in wrappings.
Gyoza (dumplings stuffed with minced pork and vegetables)
Shumai (Chinese dumplings)
Chinese steamed buns
So-called 'niku-man' steamed buns with meat filling.