'Soba Zenzai'

Tastes sweet!

Ashinano, Hitoshi. 2004. Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou. Chapter 119. Vol. 12, Page 131, Panel 4.
'Soba zenzai'
Ashinano, Hitoshi. 2004. Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou. Chapter 119. Vol. 12, Page 131, Panel 4.

'Soba zenzai' is a kind of dessert. It is 'zenzai' with soba (buckwheat) dumplings. In Kansai region of Japan, zenzai is sweet thick adzuki soup ('shiruko') with some mochi, rice cakes. In Kanto region of Japan, zenzai is sweet adzuki paste ('an') with some mochi. Soba zenzai is made with soba (buckwheat) instead of rice. Japanese word 'Soba' sometimes means "noodles" but 'soba' of soba zenzai does not.

Soba zenzai is also called 'soba-gaki zenzai', 'soba shiruko', or 'soba-gaki shiruko' in some restaurants. 'Soba-gaki' means "soba dumpling" or "thick soba porridge".

Soba Zenzai by Motohashi

Soba zenzai on a tray Soba zenzai, closer look

This is Kanto style soba zenzai, sweet adzuki paste and soba dumplings. Served with pickled cucumber (tsukemono) and green tea.

Soba Shiruko by Honmura-an

Soba shiruko on a tray Soba shiruko, dumplings Soba shiruko, beans

This is called 'soba shiruko'. Although it is called differently, It is Kansai style zenzai (sweet thick adzuki soup) with soba dumplings. Served with dried kombu and green tea.

Sobagaki Shiruko by Asahina

Sobagaki shiruko on a tray Sobagaki shiruko, closer look

This one is called 'sobagaki shiruko'. Sweet thick adzuki soup and soba dumplings. The dumplings are larger and softer than Honmura-an's. Served with pickles and soba-cha (buckwheat tea).

Soba Zenzai by Mansei-an

Soba zenzai by Mansei-an on a tray Soba zenzai by Mansei-an, closer look

Another kind of soba zenzai. Sweet thick adzuki paste and thick soba porridge. Served with tea (hoji-cha, roasted tea).

Soba-Jiruko by Shinsho

Soba jiruko by Shinsho, on a tray Soba jiruko by Shinsho, dumpling

Another hot sweet adzuki soup with soba dumplings. Served with pickles.

Where to find Soba Zenzai

It may not be very easy to find soba zenzai in today's Japan.

Ordinary zenzai (with rice cakes) could be easily found at kanmi-dokoro, a kind of restaurant that is specialized to sweet things, but you can probably not find soba zenzai at kanmi-dokoro.

You might need to search for some long-established soba noodle restaurant that serves soba zenzai.


The soba zenzai Maruko and Alpha ate in Chapter 118 look to be "sweet adzuki soup with soba dumpling".

Soba zenzai may imply a shortage of rice in Alpha's world.


Bon Appetit! / Shiruko by Otani Hiromi and Kono Toshihiko
You can learn how to cook shiruko, or zenzai in Kansai style.
Honmura An by tastingmenu.com
A review of the New York branch of Honmura-an, a soba noodle restaurant. "Soba dumplings with red bean" is mentioned at the near bottom of the article.

Appendix A: Koume

Pickled Koshu-Koume

Koume, Japanese apricot

A koume is a small kind of ume fruit. It tastes sour. Koume is as small as martini olive.

The left one of the picture is artificially colored in red.

Ume is often translated as "plum" but it is more closely related to apricot than to plum.

Ume Links

Ume for Beginners by BJH
A guide to ume.

Appendix B: Ordinary Rice Zenzai

Kyoto-style Zenzai by Tsuruya Yoshinobu

Zenzai, rice cake, western-Japanese style

This is not soba zenzai. This is ordinary rice cake zenzai in Kansai style, sweet thick adzuki soup and rice cakes.

Zenzai by Aduma

Zenzai, rice cake, eastern-Japanese style Zenzai, rice cake, eastern-Japanese style

This is rice cake zenzai in Kanto style, sweet adzuki paste and rice cakes.

Appendix C: Question

Is Zenzai a Dessert?

Peter asked me:

So if soba zenzai is a sweet dish, is it a dessert? Or can it be eaten as a meal in its own right?

Yes, it tastes sweet. I think you can say that zenzai is rather a dessert than a meal.

Zenzai is usually eaten some time after a meal as a separate snack rather than a course.

Some sophisticated restaurants serve zenzai as a last course of a meal.

When I ordered soba noodles and soba zenzai at the same time, my soba zenzai was served just after I finished my soba noodles.

How about soba zenzai?
'Oshokuji no ato ni soba zenzai ha ikaga deshouka.'
"How about soba zenzai after a meal?"

This sign was found at Motohashi, a soba noodle restaurant.

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2004-11-08/2007-02-28 KIMOTO Go