It is almost impossible to find a Japanese eatery that does not list green tea ice cream on its dessert menu, but I have always wished that ujikintoki was instead the most commonly served Japanese sweet dish.

UjikintokiUjikintoki is Japanese kakigori, a shaved ice dessert flavored with matcha syrup and enriched with toppings like red beans (azuki in Japanese), glutinous rice balls (mochi in Japanese), and a scoop of green tea ice cream.

Ujikintoki has to be one of the most romantically named desserts.  Uji is a city in Kyoto Prefecture, Japan, where cultivation of the premium-grade Uji Gyokuro green tea has a thousand-year-old history; the tea plants are shaded for a few weeks before harvesting.  Uji is home to the UNESCO-designated World Heritage Site Byodo-in Temple, not always included as a destination in a tour of Kyoto, but a must-see stop along with other famed ancient shrines, such as Kiyomizu-dera Temple and Kinkaku-ji Temple in the region.   Kintoki refers to red beans cooked in unprocessed sugar syrup.  Sakata Kintoki, a folk hero said to have reddish skin and thus often painted red in storybooks, may be the source of the dessert’s long name.

The Internet offers numerous Ujikintoki recipes.  This dessert is easy to make with ingredients readily available at Asian supermarkets, such as matcha powder, a can of azuki beans, and frozen glutinous rice balls, but how many of us have a powerful machine at home to shave the ice really fine?  I could tell you that the primitive ones that are operated manually don’t work well.