Soba kanten—take a break from the heat and cool down with traditional Japanese sweets!

Crystal clear mountain water of the Itadori

Crystal clear mountain water of the Itadori

During hot, muggy summer months, I love driving up to the crystal-clear Itadori river and jumping into its refreshing water. But on days when I can't make it to my secret swimming hole, I often cool down with this refreshing treat.

Agar agar, when soaked with water, is a jelly-like substance obtained from algae and is also known as kanten in Japanese. Kanten is used in numerous dishes, from confectionary to noodles and jellies. It is a low-fat diet food and especially popular during the summer months due to its cooling effects. The Japanese have long considered buckwheat a food promoting longevity and good health. It has been scientifically proven that buckwheat is super healthy due to its high concentration of the protein rutin.

Add some variety to your repertoire by adding this healthful dessert to your summer menu. Let's get started!

Soba kanten buckwheat agar agar sweets (serve chilled)                  

soba kanten

Serves 12


  • 5g dried kanten (or powdered agar agar)
  • 2 cups* water for soaking
  • 50g buckwheat flour
  • 2 cups water
  • 110g sugar (or raw sugar)
  • 3 tablespoons honey (to taste)

*1 cup is 200ml

nagashikan tin mould

nagashikan tin mould

  • 1 tin mould (as pictured)


  1. Soak kanten in cold water for one hour.
  2. Cook kanten on high heat until kanten dissolves completely.
  3. Add sugar.
  4. In a mixing bowl, combine buckwheat flour and water.
  5. Mix well.
  6. Combine kanten mixture with the flour and water mixture in a saucepan.
  7. Cook on high heat and bring to a boil.
  8. Reduce heat to medium and keep cooking until the kanten mixture becomes thick and starchy (about 5 minutes).
  9. Remove from the heat and add 3 tablespoons honey and mix well.
  10. Wet the tin mould with water and pour the cooked kanten mixture into it.
  11. Leave it to cool off and set at room temperature.
  12. Cover it with cling film and put it in fridge.
  13. To serve, turn the tin mould upside down on a cutting board and wiggle gently until the stiff kanten falls out.
  14. Cut soba kanten into 12 pieces and serve in small dessert bowls with your favorite seasonal fruit.

Hopefully this kanten recipe will keep you nice and cool in the summer heat. Next week, we will be preparing tatakiseared Bonito fillet with onion sauce. Served cold and paired with a fresh salad, this dish is an excellent summer protein choice! 

Stay cool and see you soon!