Manjū (まんじゅう 饅頭) is Japanese sweet which consists of soft, thin shell of flour-based dough wrapped around a filling of red-bean paste and steamed. Although the manjū originally came from the Chinese steamed bean-bun, the Japanese version has a much thinner “shell.”
Manjū come in a variety of different shapes, sizes, and colors. Typically, they are round, seamless, beige, and a little shiny on the outside. Manjū meant to be served to guests with matcha (抹茶), powdered green tea, may be colored with mugwort (yomogi 蓬) or with matcha itself to achieve a green color; the manjū may be shaped like a maple leaf in the autumn in honor of mojiji (紅葉), the change of the maple leaves and subsequent maple-leaf viewing. In additional, the style of the dough and the fillings vary regionally and seasonally.
In the backstreets of Kanazawa’s Katamachi is Takada Namagashi Mise (高田生菓子店), a small shop specializing in Japanese okashi (お菓子), or sweets. Takada’s specialty, as stated on the sign, is kabocha manjū, or manjū filled with a paste made of Japanese pumpkin (かぼちゃ、南瓜). Manjū are available for purchase in a box as omiyage (お土産) or individually (bara-bara バラバラ) for 110 yen a piece. The texture of the kabocha filling is quite similar to the texture of red-bean paste.
Takada is a bit off the beaten path but is still within 5 minutes’ walk of Katamachi proper. Some of Japan’s and Ishikawa’s most interesting food comes from small, local, creative shops like this, so give the kabocha manjū a try when you’re in the area.