The Mochi Diaries: Chapter 15 Gomatamago ごまたまご

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Welcome to another instalment of the Mochi Diaries, Chapter 15 Gomatamago ごまたまご! Once again these guys really aren’t mochi but in fact intricately designed cakes, however they are omiyage お土産 nonetheless and so kawaii I couldn’t resist!!!

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During my last top to Tokyo 東京 I picked a box of Gomatamago ごまたまご (Lit. Black Sesame Egg) cakes on my way home as the packaging intrigued me. Furthermore Gomatamago are a meibutsu 名物 (Specialty product) of the Tokyo region, so it’s not as if I would have the opportunity to purchase them again in the near future.

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As far as omiyage go these are on the pricy side of things at 700円 for a box containing 8 pieces, that said they are each individually wrapped and sizeable.

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The centre is a sweet paste consisting of kurogoma 黒胡麻 (Black sesame seeds) and anko 餡子 (red bean paste) which is supposed to constitute the ‘yolk’ of the egg…… Perhaps they are piitan 皮蛋 (Chinese century eggs) ( ^ω^ ).

This ‘yolk’ is then coated in a thin layer of kasutera カステラ (castella cake), a type Japanese cake originating in Nagasaki through trade with the Portuguese in 16th century that is immensely popular here. Finally the tamago is coated in a thin layer of white-chocolate to form a delicious crispy ‘shell’!

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All in all I was quite impressed by this tasty treat, I imagine they to well hand in hand with a cup of afternoon tea.
The centre retained a perfect level of moistness and was not overly sweet.
If your ever in Tokyo give a box a try! 4/5

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Mochi Diaries: Chapter 12 – Ichigo Daifuku苺大福

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I come bearing grand mochi news for you my loyal readers (minions).
My Mochi Diaries articles from the February issue onward will be now featured monthly in the Hyogo Times (A Hyogo AJET publication). Throughout the corse of this year I intend to continue publishing the Mochi Diaries simultaneously in both the Hyogo Times and here on Nihonomnom so fear not, it’s certainly not going anywhere.

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You can find the following article featured on the Hyogo Times website through the link below.
http://www.hyogoajet.net/hyogotimes/2013/02/04/new-feature-mochi-diaries-ichigo-daifuku苺大福/

Or if you would prefer to read it as part of the February 2013 issue of the Hyogo Times the PDF can be found here.
http://www.hyogoajet.net/hyogotimes/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/HT_feb13pdf.pdf

Come with us now on a journey through time and space……. and mochi!

I bid you welcome to Chapter 12 of ‘The Mochi Diaries – Ichigo Daifuku 苺大福’ and invite you to join me as I indulge in my infatuation with exploring the world of the sticky delicious Japanese sweets known as mochi!!! ☆*:.。. o(≧▽≦)o .。.:*☆

But Daniel, you ask, what exactly are these sweet squishy balls of happiness????

Well, to tell it to you short and sweet, mochi (餅) are a popular type of Japanese rice cake that can be eaten as either a sweet or savoury dish.

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Myself being a gentleman who has made mochi following the traditional process, I can attest to the fact that this is by no means a task for the fainthearted, requiring the stamina and upper body strength to work up a mochi sized hunger in any man. I imagine many of you may have also been fortunate enough to participate in a mochitsukui no hi (持ち搗きの日; mochi pounding day) over the New Year’s period alongside members of your local community.

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So how is it all done? In a nutshell mochigome(餅米; boiled sticky rice) is placed into a concave stone container and beaten with a large wooden mallet until it forms a sticky white ball of dough. From here there are a plethora of paths our mochi can take. If heading down the traditional route, it will be moulded into balls, before receiving the ever common filing of anko (餡こ; sweet red bean paste).

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Anyhow, enough about the process and more about today’s review! Without further due I present to you ichigo daifuku(苺大福)!

Now I live near a large train station, the type that sports a large gourmet food hall in the depths of its basement. Every now and then I like to take a walk through these labyrinths lined with pricey bentos, simply to steal a peak at what fancy seasonal produce is on offer. However the stalls that I always find myself gawking at are the mochiya (餅屋), frequently receiving odd looks from the staff as I drool over the intricately crafted mochi through the glass. Recently I decided to indulge in a couple of these deliciously squishy 210円 a piece delicacies, and befitting the season, ichigo daifuku was the obvious choice!

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The origin of these particular sweets is a little hazy with dozens of stores across Japan claiming to have been the creators of this winter/spring time treat. All that can be agreed upon that they emerged on the market some time during the 1980s and become an instant hit. How could it not have been, blending all the deliciousness of fresh ripe strawberries and the soft sweet delicacy of mocha? It’s certainly a win in my books.

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Let’s take a step back, however, and deconstruct the ichigo daifuku. These days they come in a wide variety of flavours with popular varieties swapping out the anko surrounding the strawberry with chocolate or cream to appeal to the modern Japanese palate. The one I present to you today is the traditional koshian ichigo daifuku; a crisp strawberry at its centre, coated in a thick sweet layer of koshian (漉し餡; bean paste) and held together by an outer layer of fresh chewy mochi.

So how does it taste?? In a word AMAZING! The selling point on this mochi for me is definitely the superbness of its texture. Somehow the slight crunch of the strawberry perfectly complements the pillowy firmness of the surrounding mochi, while the anko in between forms the perfect creamy bridge between what one would think to be clashing textures.

It was love at first bite! 4.5/5

Want to read more Mochi Diaries Posts?

The Mochi Diaries: Chapter 11 – Kagami Mochi 鏡餅

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The Mochi Diaries: Chapter 13 – Mitsuringo 蜜りんご (Honey Apple) Namayatsuhashi 生八つ橋

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The Mochi Diaries: Chapter 11 – Kagami Mochi 鏡餅

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Kagami mochi 鏡餅 (Mirror Mochi) is traditional Japanese new years decoration for good luck. It is displayed in the family’s kamidana 神棚 (household shrine) throughout New Years period, up until the 11th of Janurary at which time it is eaten.

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Kagami mochi is made from two hard oval shaped mochi of slightly different sizes. The larger one is placed at the base with the smaller one stacked on top, finaly a daidai 橙 (japanese bitter orange) is placed at the peak.

After the new years period has passed, on Janurary 11th a ceremony called Kagami Biraki 鏡開き (literally. Opening the Mirror) is performed in which the Kagami mochi is removed from the kamidana and broken into small pieces to be eaten.

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Because the mochi has been sitting exposed to the air for several weeks, it becomes cracked and brittle because if this it is possible to break the mochi with a hammer, it is considered bad luck to use a knife for this task as it implies the ‘cutting of ties’.

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I used a mallet to smash mine, anyone who has done this before knows this is no simple task, even with a little one like mine! However as opposed to most people making their own kagami mochi as was done in the past, today it is often sold in the shape of the stacked discs pre-packaged in supermarket, much like the one I myself obtained.

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Now there’s two typical paths your mochi can take from here, traditionally kagami mochi will either end up in zouni 雑煮 (a savory New Years soup) featured above or zenzai 善哉 (sweet red bean soup).

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I chose to make zenzai as I’m much too lazy to make zouni.
For an almost instant and incredibly simple zenzai soup start with a 210g can of yude azuki ゆであずき (prepared sweetened red beans).

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Heat the contents of one can on a liw heat, along with 3/4 of a cup of water.
(Optional) I like mine a bit sweeter, if your similarly inclined, feel free to put a couple spoons of brown sugar in.

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Once it’s boiled down to a thick soupy consistency, serve it up in an athletically pleasing bowl.

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From here throw in your broken pieces of mochi into the piping hot zenzen soup, ensure it is as hot as possible as we want the mochi to dissolve until a sticky globby texture is achieved.
If you want to speed this up microwave the mochi (very briefly) just to heat them up to the point where they begin to become soft. This will speed up the whole process as you won’t need to leave it in the soup so long nor it be so hot.

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This is what your finished product should end up looking like, this is the same recipe I used with the mochi I receive last December from my mochitsuki 餅搗 incase it looks familiar.

Want to read more Mochi Diaries Posts?

 The Mochi Diaries: Chapter 10 – Kaki Mochi 柿餅

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Mochi Diaries: Chapter 12 – Ichigo Daifuku苺大福

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The Mochi Diaries: Chapter 10 – Kaki Mochi 柿餅

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Welcome to Chapter 10 of the Mochi Diaries, Kaki Mochi 柿餅!

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During a recent trip to Nara I picked up one of these boxes, having quite the affinity for anything Kaki 柿 (Japanese Persimmon) related I was quite excited to have a nom these guys.

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Now firstly upon opening them I was completely taken aback at the intricate detail that went into producing every single mochi in the box!

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Made to resemble the fruit of which they are flavored the mochi consist of four separate ingredients.

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I translated the important bit of the diagram above that came in the box explaining what they are made of.

Essentially they are mostly kaki flavored mochi filled with a core of kaki an 柿あん (persimmon flavored red bean paste).
The leaves are made of dango 団子 held in place by a thin piece of konbu 昆布 (dried sea kelp), honestly the konbu is some what annoying since you must remove it before eating each mochi being inedible.

So you ask, ‘but Daniel what is the difference between mochi and dango?’
Well they are pretty much the same thing, the only difference being in the technique used to make them.

When making mochi, you begin by grinding glutinous rice to a paste which is then steamed and l finally pounded into a sticky dough.
Dango on the other hand is made from rice flour that has been mixed with hot water to make a dough, before being boiled in salted water.

Anyhow beyond the novelty of the mochi, the taste was just ok, that said it was more than made up for by the awesomeness of the presentation of the sweets!
3.75/5

Want to read more Mochi Diaries Posts?

The Mochi Diaries: Chapter 9 – Mochitsuki Special Edition 餅搗き増刊

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The Mochi Diaries: Chapter 11 – Kagami Mochi 鏡餅

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The Mochi Diaries: Chapter 9 – Mochitsuki Special Edition 餅搗き増刊

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In this special mochitsuki 餅搗き edition of The Mochi Diaries im going to go down a path a little different from the norm, welcome to Chapter 9 of The Mochi Diaries- Mochitsuki Special Edition 餅搗き増刊.

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Last weekend my base chuugakkou 中学校 (Junior Highschool) had their annual mochitsukui no hi 持ち搗きの日 (Mochi making day), obviously due to my grand affinity for mochi such an event had me excited from the moment I heard about its existence!

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An annual tradition across Japan, making mochi is a traditional part of the shogatsu 正月 (New years) celebration. Mochi is an essential food around the end of the year with it being included in several Osechi-ryōri 御節料理 (Traditional Japanese New Year foods) including zōni お雑煮 (Clear savoury Japanese soup containing mochi), Kagami mochi 鏡餅 (literally mirror rice cake, a new years decoration) and shiruko 汁粉 (Sweet red bean soup with mochi).

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Rice being boiled before the pounding

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Boiled sticky rice 餅米 (mochigome) is placed into a stone concave container and patted with water whilst being flipped by one person while another beats the dough with a large wooden mallet.

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The rice is slowly mashed until it forms a sticky white ball of dough which can be divided up and shaped.

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At my school, each class and year level had a turn throughout the day at pounding their own mochi with members I the local community.

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Once the pounding was complete the dough is moved to a rice flour covered table where the students shape and package their mochi to take home.

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A row of the finished products.

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I received my own box to take home and rather than just eating them as is I though I might show you just how versatile a food these sticky balls of joy in fact are!!

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Along side the mochi, also included in the pack was a small ball of anko 餡こ (sweet red bean paste) a popular mochi filling and a packet of kinako 黄粉 (toasted soybean flour) a popular mochi coating.

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The first piece I put in zenzai 善哉 (sweet red bean soup) which I made using by adding a little milk to some anko and heating it up.

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As you can see the mochi begins to dissolve once placed in the soup, gaining a delicious squishy, sticky texture!

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The other piece I placed on some foil and baked at 170degrees for about 20minutes. When subjected to heat the mochi grows up like a crispy mushroom whilst the bottom half retains the sticky mochi texture anchoring it.
I filled the bottom with the anko paste and used the kinako powder to dust the outside, really my own creation of my imagination, I shall call ‘yaita kinako kinoko mochi’ 焼いた黄粉茸餅 (baked soybean mushroom mochi)!
めっちゃ美味しいですよ!!!!

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I leave you with a photo of yours truly looking positively strapping on the day

☆〜(ゝ。∂)

Want to read more Mochi Diaries Posts?

The Mochi Diaries: Chapter 8 – Kuri Yatsuhashi 栗八つ橋

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The Mochi Diaries: Chapter 10 – Kaki Mochi 柿餅

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The Mochi Diaries: Chapter 7 – Ninja (Kusa) Dango 草餅

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Today I bring to the table The Mochi Diaries Chapter 7 – Ninja (Kusa) Dango 草餅

As a foreword this mochi doesn’t actually have anything to do with ninja, in fact rather than mochi todays review is on kusa dango 草団子 (grass dango). Dango whilst being almost identical to mochi is a separate type of wagashi, generally speaking the difference is that mochi is made by pounding glutinous rice into a dough where as dango is made by adding water to mochiko 餅粉 (glutinous rice flour) and boiling or grilling the resulting dough.

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Now the reason I suspect for the whole ninja packaging is due to the fact that kusa 草 the kanji for grass, though in modern Japanese it is now an archaic reading 草 was once  could be read to mean ‘ninja’, so it’s essentially a pun.

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Unlike any mochi 餅 or dango 団子 I have reviewed thus far, as opposed to the usual mochi outer layer filled with a sweet centre (usually azuki あずき) this kusa dango lies on a bed of anko 餡こ (sweetened red bean paste).

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Rather than just popping them in your mouth, a small a small spoon is provided to scoop the dango up with a little anko on the side.
Fair nomnomnom 3.5/5

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Now as a little bonus, if you have never seen one of these before its a kakigoori かき氷 (shaved ice) machine. During the summer I became somewhat addicted to these delicious treats as they are a great way to cool down. Popular matsuri 祭 (festival) snacks, they come in a wide array of flavours.

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Using the kusa dango I decided to make the traditional ujikintoki kakigori which is topped with sweetened red bean paste, dango and often capped with condensed milk.

Want to read more Mochi Diaries Posts?

The Mochi Diaries: Chapter 6 – Goma Yatsuhashi 胡麻 八つ橋

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The Mochi Diaries: Chapter 8 – Kuri Yatsuhashi 栗八つ橋

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Nunobiki Herb Garden 布引ハーブ園 & Nunobiki Falls 布引の滝

20121016-午後031214.jpgA couple weeks ago towards the end of summer my good friend Matcha-san (a fellow Melbournian) and I spent a day exploring Nunobiki Herb Garden 布引ハーブ園 and the Nunobiki no Taki 布引の滝 (Nunobiki Falls) next door for a chill and relaxing Friday adventure. Situated a couple minutes walk from Shin-Kobe station (the stop the Shinkansen 新幹線 (Bullet Train) passes through) it’s insane that such beauty and wilderness exists literally on our doorstep here in Kobe.

The Nunobiki herb garden sits on the side of Mt Rokko, consisting of a large café and rest house at its peak, further down a sizable greenhouse and a long path lined with every herb imaginable. The easiest way to reach the peak by taking the Shin-Kōbe Ropeway 新神戸ロープウェー (colloquial known as the Kōbe Yume-Fūsen 神戸夢風船 (Kobe Dream Balloon)) a 1.5km cable car for a brisk 10 minute trip to the top of the mountain then walk the casual slopes down. In my opinion view of Kobe granted from the peak of the Herb Garden is far superior to that of Port Tower and I highly recommend a day up there. At 700¥ all the way up it was certainly not expensive also!

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The cable car entrance point.

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The view of Kobe on the way up was fair amazing.

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Matcha and I on the way up.

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Sample of steel cable that supports the cars.

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A model of the Herb Garden

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Sights along the walk back down.

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Here are a couple photos of the views from Nunobiki Herb Garden,

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After a relaxing morning casually strolling around the gardens we decided to head off to see the Nunobiki Waterfalls which is considered to be one of Japan’s one of the greatest divine falls alongside Kegon Falls and Nachi Falls.

Much to my amusement I forced Lady Matcha to go bushwacking (its an australian term) to the nearby waterfalls next door, a task she was not at all dressed to embark on!

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In the end it was totally all worth it as quite clearly Nunobiki Waterfalls are a little bit amazing ❤

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A couple funny little signs I spotted along the way.

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To add to the awesomeness of this place there is also a little traditional Japanese restaurant on the top of the mountain overlooking said waterfalls.
We ended up talking to the little old obaa- chan that runs the place for a good half hour! She’s meccha sweet!

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Here are some photos of the menu for the place which specializes in ramen, the item labled おすすめ (recommendation) is their specialty Nunobiki Ramen 布引ラメン (Thread-pulling Ramen) which I tried.

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After devouring this bowl whist looking out at an amazing view it too has become my おすすめ and at 500円 why not ^_^