photo source: news.walkerplus.com
In Japan these days, it's not enough for desserts to simply be delicious – they've got to be kawaii, too! Shirukuma Cafe's range of little filled dessert bears are designed to melt adorably in your cup, releasing their delicious insides (containing tea powder or sweet instant dessert paste) to provide you with a treat that's both adorable to look at and good to eat!
The little bears are actually a form of monaka (crispy mochi wafer with a filling, usually azuki bean paste) which, in their current incarnation, have become kaichuu shiruko (portable red-bean soup!) Shiruko, while often referred to as soup, is actually a kind of sweet porridge made from crushed azuki beans with little balls of mochi floating on top.
A traditional bowl of shiruko red bean "soup" with mochi balls. The perfect warm winter treat for a cold day, but difficult to make from scratch.
photo by s.takaki via Flickr
To prepare the Shirukuma shiruko, simply pop the teddy into a bowl, add hot water, and watch as the crispy wafer melts away to release the red bean paste. As the paste melts into the water, it creates a delicious bowl of shiruko!
photo source : fanblogs.jp
Here's what the finished dessert looks like (with another Shirukuma balanced on top!)
The name "Shirukuma" comes from shiruko + kuma, the Japanese word for bear. The treat is available in three flavours, "Old-fashioned Shiruko", which contains Hokkaido red beans and black sugar, "Matcha Shiruko" which contains Kyoto Uji matcha and milk, and "Black Sesame Shiruko" which contains black sesame seeds.
photo source: tyokotyokofan.seesaa.net/
These versatile bear parcels aren't just useful for making instant desserts, though – they also work perfectly as a method of delivering tea to hot water! Accordingly, Shirukuma also has a range of tea-filled teddy bears which work in exactly the same way as the dessert bears – just put a bear in your mug, pour over hot water and, once the crispy wafer shell has melted away, you'll have a perfect cup of tea! Each bear is filled with a kelp tea powder, and this variety comes in two flavours - "Kelp Tea" and "Plum Kelp Tea".
The cute teddy bear Shirukuma character also has its own range of photo "stamps" on LINE, Japan's most popular instant messaging app. You can download 40 different Shirukuma stamps to your smartphone or tablet for only 100 yen, and use them to decorate your photographs or send to your friends in the form of emoji!
The Shirukuma dessert and tea bears are available to purchase online from Japanese website Bellemaison*. Shirukuma desserts come neatly packaged in boxes of of six, including two of each of the three shiruko flavours. Each box costs 1,852 yen, or approximately 15 USD, but you can get a discount if you purchase several boxes at once. The Shirukuma tea bears, however, are currently sold out, so keep an eye on the official Shirukuma Twitter account** to see when they'll have some new stock. A box of these cute teddy bears would make a great gift for dessert-loving friends, or a perfect treat to reward yourself with after a hard day!