The Smooth, Delicious and Rich Japanese Soft Serve Ice Cream
No matter where you go in Japan, you will find it, the Japanese softcream. In English, we call it simply as “soft serve ice cream.” The soft ice-cream served on a wafer-cone which we hurriedly enjoy before it trickles down our fingers 😊 Yes, that is the one I am talking about!
The smooth, delicious swirly rich Japanese softcream in a cone is always in order in Japan, even on the coldest days of winter.
I am sure it is readily available and popular in many countries but what makes the ones in Japan so special? Well, it is the premium quality, texture, flavours and its association with a particular region of Japan.
In this article, I share a brief introduction to soft serve ice cream along with the Japanese soft serve ice cream (passionately known as Japanese softcream) and my mini adventure with Murasaki Imo and Yuba, one of the best Japanese softcream combination I encountered in Kyoto.
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1 | Soft Serve Ice Cream
Soft serve ice cream is exactly what it sounds like — a soft frozen dessert similar to ice cream but less dense. Made with 3 to 6 per cent of milk fat and stored at -3°C, allowing for the smooth texture. Unlike ice-cream that needs scooping out of a tub, soft serve is readily served from a machine. It is absolutely scrumptious and available in many flavours.
2 | Japanese Softcream | Soft Serve Ice Cream in Japan
‘Softcream’ is the endearing Japanese way of saying soft serve ice cream. Since its introduction in the 1950s, Japanese softcream has grown to be so popular that it has become part of Japanese culture rather than a sweet treat or a way to cool down in the summer.
The beloved Japanese softcream is unique. Made with smooth, rich premium cream and carefully selected lavish ingredients, creating a wonderfully rich flavour and texture to a variety of never before encountered tastes. The smooth and rich texture melts not just in your mouth but will melt your heart as well. The Japanese are passionate about how softcream is made, and you can feel, enjoy the deep yet subtle flavour of the full bodied ingredients at every mouthful.
3 | Flavours of Japanese Softcream
There are over 100 different flavours of the silky smooth Japanese softcream. A lot of people would probably be familiar with the standard vanilla, chocolate or the green tea matcha flavours, but you would also find the unusually flavoured softcream. There are the purple coloured ones, along with the fruity melon or the soy sauce flavoured ones! Yes, indeed – the soy sauce! These varieties, I am told, are related to a region which has their own speciality.
Here are a few varieties which you might come across when visiting Japan.
3.1 | Matcha Green Tea Softcream in Japan
Matcha Green Tea soft serve ice cream is associated with Kyoto because of the production of Match Green Tea in Uji. Uji produces superior quality Matcha tea and Kyoto has some of the most delicious Japanese softcream in this flavour. Matcha Green Tea softcream is also a flavour that is readily available all over the country.
3.2 | Tofu and Amazake in Tokyo
Amazake or ‘sweet sake’ is a sweet, non-alcoholic Japanese drink made from fermented rice. It is creamy, has a thick consistency, a very interesting taste along with health benefits. The sweet sake is available in supermarkets and convenience stores.
The origin of Amazake goes back to the Kofun period (250 to 358 AD), mentions of it can be found in The Nihon Shoki (The Chronicles of Japan, published in 720 AD), the second oldest book of classical Japanese history.
You could try the delicious Amazake soft serve on its own or Amazake and Tofu softcream as a combination. Both are absolutely rich and delectable, popularly available in Tokyo.
3.3 | Melon in Furano
Furano is a city in the Hakkaido Prefecture of Japan. Noted as a popular tourist destination and a ski resort, Furano is equally famous for its lavender fields, and melons.
Hokkaido melons are the island’s specialities. There are various brands where varieties of ice cream flavours and products are made. Of the brands, the Yubari King melon is reputed as the premier quality. Its mellow taste, accompanied by a rich fragrance gives the succulent flesh a distinct flavour that is pleasantly robust.
The soft serve ice cream made from the silky, juicy and fragrantly sweet melon flesh is a melon softserve that will blow you away!
Lavendar soft serve ice cream is popular in the summer. They also make lavendar soda which is refreshing with a subtle sweet taste of lavender.
Both melon and lavender softcream are easily available in Hokkaido.
3.4 | Azuki Softcream in Himeji
Azuki, also known as red bean is a treasured ingredient for Japanese desserts. The bean is deep red in colour, with a mildly nutty taste, along with a delectable light sweetness works so well for a perfect soft serve ice cream.
Himeji Prefecture, home to Himeji Castle is also where you shall find the Azuki Museum. The museum tells the story of the Azuki red bean, its origin, the cultivation along with the use of Azuki in Japanese cooking and ceremonies over the centuries.
You could enjoy a crunchy wafer topped with the flavoursome Azuki softcream while exploring the gardens that surround the museum.
3.5 | Murasaki Imo in Kamakura
Murasaki Imo or purple sweet potato softcream is unique to Kamakura, a seaside city located just south of Tokyo. The city was the de facto capital of medieval Japan, and now home to many Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines.
The purple sweet potato offers a natural and mild yet an exotic taste in not an overly creamy Japanese softcream.
4 | My Mini-adventure with Japanese Softcream — Murasaki Imo and Yuba
While the various flavours and varieties are unique to a region in Japan, you could still have the best experiences of these flavours wherever you are in the country.
The varieties of these soft serve ice cream caught my attention when I visited Kyoto, Japan. My mini adventure with the “softcream” took place on a very hot afternoon after visiting Fushimi Inari in Kyoto and climbing (and down) of those 4000 or so bright orange Torii gates. I was drawn to this one shop front that had yuba ice cream and various different coloured ones. It had a long line of visitors waiting to be served…so figured the “soft cream” must be good? Correct? Well, I decided to join the queue and try it anyways.
I could have a combination of two flavours or a single flavour. Two scoops. All for 400 Yen. I definitely did not want to try the green tea flavour (had already tried before on many occasions in Kyoto).
I opted for something different and exotic — a combination of yuba soft cream and the Murasaki Imo, the purple sweet potato.
4.1 | Yuba Japanese Softcream
Yuba softcream is derived from soya. Yuba is a soy milk skin that is created on the surface when the soy milk is boiled. The delicate tofu skin is then skimmed off vats of soy milk.
The yuba softcream is flavourful and tastes like thick soy milk. It was tasty and mildly sweet.
4.2 | Murasaki Imo
The murasaki imo which I tried was mellow with a gentle sweet taste. It was creamy but not overly creamy and it was not overbearingly sweet like most Japanese desserts are. It did not have the strong flavour of the orange yams or the yellow sweet potato and it certainly was not bland. It does take a little time to settle on your palate, especially when you are working through the silky smooth yuba and a tad stronger but mild silky smooth root vegetable.
4.3 | My thoughts on Murasaki Imo and Yuba Japanese Softcream
The combination of Murasaki Imo and Yuba softcream was indeed refreshing. I had not tasted anything like that before. I was pleasantly surprised at what seemed a perfect combination of exotic flavours with mild sweetness along with a hint of root vegetable.
Murasaki Imo and Yuba is definitely one of the best Japanese softcream I have tasted. I would highly recommend that you try this exquisite flavour when you visit Japan.
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