CONTRIBUTED BY KIMBERLY MITCHELL

Zenzai

The first time I ordered zenzai, I got a giant bowl of shaved ice with a scoop of ice cream on top. It looked delicious. And it was. But I was in for some more surprises as I dug in. After a few bites, I found a little mochi ball. What a treat! I love mochi. Then, I noticed that one side of the mochi had some dark red sauce on it. I dug my spoon down in further and came up with a bite of sweet azuki beans! I soon discovered there was a whole bowl full of them, the ice was just the topping.

The next time I tried zenzai I got fruit in my ice. The time after that, I got brown sugar ice. It seemed to be a little different everywhere I went, but the bottom line is that the azuki bean soup is actually the “zenzai”. Topping it with ice technically makes it a polar zenzai, but since that is the standard in Okinawa, you can just refer to it as plain old zenzai and you’ll always get the ice.

Over the summer I became a zenzai addict. We found a little shop near the seawall that has all sorts of different flavored ice and topping combinations. I tried to ask them the name of their shop and they said Fujiya. So that might be the name, or I may have asked them a different question completely. But I’ll tell you where it is at the bottom of this post and you too can try the goodness.

But then I made another discovery! You can buy all of the ingredients and an ice shaver at your local grocery store and make your very own at home! Not only is the deliciousness now at my fingertips whenever I want it, my daughter has a blast making it. Sort of like the snoopy-sno cone maker, but SO MUCH BETTER.

The zenzai comes in a can, ready to go. The mochi needs to be made from mochi flour and water, but it’s super easy and really quick. As for the ice, plain old water will do, but why not have some fun with it?  I found some green tea flavored powder that was quite tasty and was experimenting with bene-imo flavor ice in the video. Top it however you like, but my favorite is sweetened condensed milk. Want to see how easy it is?

Address: 2-98 Miyagi, Chatan

Google Maps Coordinates: 26.32929575702557, 127.74443617381439

Directions: From Kadena gate 1, take a left onto 58 and then an immediate right next to the US auto sales sign. At the end of this street, right before you hit the water, Fujiya is on the right-hand side between a dive shop and Cocok’s. Park wherever you can, although I’d avoid parking right there on that street since I’ve gotten a $200 ticket there!

9 COMMENTS

  1. Kim, you are truly a woman of many talents! I adore your video and can’t wait to send this to all my friends, as I’ve raved about zenzai since I got back from Okinawa and now my friends and family can see my zenzai obsession up close. While on Okinawa, Aviva introduced me to several versions of zenzai and I made it my personal mission to find it myself in as many places as possible! I’m so homesick for Okinawa!

  2. I loved the video and I even freeze framed it so I could check out the Mochi label so I would recognize it at the store…thanks for a great directional video.

  3. Kim, you’re so sweet. Thanks for the offer but I think I just haven’t been looking hard enough. My guess is we’ll probably find all the ingredients we need once we make a field trip to the big Asian supermarket.

    Staci, we got our ice machine at the home store located in the Ginowan 100 yen plaza.

  4. Kim, you’re so sweet. Thanks for the offer but I think I just haven’t been looking hard enough. My guess is we’ll probably find all the ingredients we need once we make a field trip to the big Asian supermarket.

    Staci, we got our ice machine at the home store located in the Ginowan 100 yen plaza.

  5. Zenzai is one of those things that I wish that I liked, but I don’t. But I admire your passion for it and it sounds like fun to make! The one and only time I tried it was at the cafe at Yomitan Pottery Village. I bet if I liked Zenzai, it would be awesome — a huge pillow of ice covered with tons of beans. As much as I try, I can’t get over my bias towards salty beans over the sweet. The lady at the Pottery Village cafe looked at my half eaten portion of zenzai when I was there, smiled at me, and said, “next time…cake-i”. How embarrassing. Perhaps I need to keep trying?!

  6. I got my ice shaver at Jusco in the grocery store section so I would imagine any big grocery store might have one. Since it is a manual one it was only about $12. I know they have some electric ones but I didn’t find one so I’m not sure how much they would cost or where to buy.

    I was also thinking about how to find the ingredients once we left. Julia, I can send you an Okinawan care package if you want!

  7. Great post Kim! Love the zenzai at “Fujiya” too. That’s the only place I’ve ever had it served with a rice cake and I thought it really added to the zenzai.

    Judging from the video it looks like you guys are ready to open up your own zenzai shop! 🙂

    Thanks for all of the great tips. We made sure we left Oki with an ice shaver (Dragonball Z in our case)! Now if only I can find a place to get mochi powder and red beans around here…

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