Anko is a jam-like, sweet paste, usually made from adzuki beans. It is primarily made in Japan, where it is used in wagashi, and in shiruko. 80% of adzuki beans in Japan are used to make Anko.
When made from adzuki beans, it’s a dark brown paste. If it is an off-white colour, it is called shiro-an, and is usually made from white kidney beans (though it may be made from water lily root, or chestnuts, in which case it’s called “kuri-an.”)
To make it, the beans are boiled in water, drained, reboiled, then sweetened with sugar, then drained, then mashed.
When left somewhat coarse, it’s called “tsubu- an” and is often used as a filling. When pressed through a sieve to become smooth and take away the bean husks, it is called “koshi-an” or “neri-an.” You lose about 1/3 of the paste. This smoother version can be used decoratively.
Very high quality Anko is made with a premium variety of adzuki beans called “Dainagon Beans.”
It is sold in cans in grocery stores. You can also buy it unsweetened and finish it off yourself at home.
When dried, it is called “sarashi-an” — you reconstitute it with water.
Anko is also made in China and Korea.
Soak dried adzuki beans overnight; cook them in a pressure cooker. Purée in a food processor; sweeten with sugar.
Some people are tempted to think Anko is low in calories because it is made from beans, but it is in fact high in sugar — often 60 percent of the beans by weight. (To compare, milk chocolate is generally about 50 percent sugar.)
“An” means a sweet paste.
Also just called “an.”