Japan: Sweet & Smooth Mizuame

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Mizuame is a unique ingredient dear to my heart because of it’s subtle sweetness and smooth texture. Mizuame is a thick syrup-like sweetener made from barley and other starches which is converted into sugar. When I think of mizuame, I’m reminded of my childhood and my grandfather. When I was a kid my mom would dip the ends of two chopsticks into a jar of mizuame and hand them to me with a gooey glob of mizuame on the ends. From there I would take over and spin the tips of the chopsticks around eachother over and over until the mizuame became frothy in texture. The excitement and joy of eating mizuame on a stick was so much better than anything else on a stick (ice cream and lolliepops included) because not only was it melted in your mouth delicious, I worked hard for it.

It’s been a while since I had mizuame like that. Maybe kids are the only ones that eat mizuame like that, however there are other uses for mizuame. It can be used in place of sugar in sweets to make them thick and shiny.

I’m also reminded of my grandfather who was sent to protect the Japanese Imperial Palace during the war. The Imperial Palace was never attacked, however many of the stores and homes near the palace were bombed and my grandfather found cans of mizuame on his way home and brought them to my grandmother to use as a sweetener. To this day, my grandmother is the only person I know that uses mizuame.

Mizuame in Action – This You Tube Video shows a kid going to town with her large glob of mizuame. Man, my mom never gave me that much.

I decided to search for mizuame at my local Japanese grocery store and was pleasantly surprised to find a variety of different types. There was a higher grade mizuame in a jar and this smaller, more practical mizuame in a tube.
mizuame_tube

I’ll be using this mizuame in a dessert in the next week so stay tuned.

Naomi Kuwabara
Naomi Kuwabara was born and raised in California but spent many summers in Japan growing up. She has spent time living in Hokkaido and Osaka, both meccas for Japanese cuisine. Her passion is cooking and sharing her experiences cooking Japanese food with others. Her blog Umamitopia is about her experiences cooking Japanese food. Her greatest inspirations are from her mother and grandmother. Her cooking adventures can be found at http://umamitopia.com.
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