Dorayaki - pancakes filled with sweet red beans

O (honourable) + kashi (sweets) = just desserts

Ever notice that your favourite Japanese restaurants only have green tea ice cream on the dessert list? That’s because dessert is not a part of a regular Japanese meal. Instead of gorging on a heaving plate of decadence at the end of a big meal, the Japanese eat their sweets mid-afternoon, taking a break to enjoy a small treat with a cup of bitter tea or coffee. Sweet red beans (azuki beans) and sweet red bean paste (an) feature frequently in Japanese desserts, because when sugar wasn’t readily available, these beans were considered a sweet treat. Adjust your dessert expectations accordingly – Japanese desserts are often small and dense, or delicately flavoured and enjoyed for their texture. But whether you serve these before or after dinner, if you’re complementing a Japanese meal, skip the cookies and reach for the (sweet red) beans instead.