Following up on my new monthly column on desserts and sweets, which debuted last Friday in The Japan Times – it's cutely entitled Sweet Inspirations – here are a few examples of classic flavored "soft cream" (that's the Japanese term for soft-serve ice cream) from around town… starting naturally with matcha:
This one is from the green tea specialist shop inside Solamachi, the mall at the foot of the new Tokyo Sky Tree. It's also available as a sundae, garnished with sweet azuki jam, of course — which you can eat with a special Sky Tree spoon.
Beni-imo is a variety of sweet potato found in Okinawa that is reputed to impart great health benefits along with its dramatic mauve colour. This store is in the arcade close to Sensoji temple in Asakusa.
If you're a chocoholic, Cacao Sampaka will need no introduction. The Tokyo outlet is in Brick Square, just around the corner from the Joel Robuchon bakery/cafe and the Echiré butter boutique. The actual soft cream is far darker and satisfyingly chocolate-rich than you would guess from the outsize model on the sidewalk outside the store.
I've already introduced the coffee soft cream at Binya — but there's no harm in revisiting this tasty treat…
One last item, and it's a bit of a novelty: soymilk. This kiosk inside the labyrinth that is Shibuya JR station serves all kinds of desserts with soymilk – including a soft cream.
What's it taste like? Just look at the name over the top.
Surprisingly, there's very little tradition of using soymilk — tonyu, in Japanese — in Japan, other than for making tofu and yuba. This brand and its recipes apparently come from Singapore.