Welcome to Chapter 13 of ‘The Mochi Diaries’ (餅の日記), in this post I shall be introducing Mitsuringo 蜜りんご (Honey Apple) namayatsuhashi 生八つ橋!
It’s almost as if I never run out of yatsuhashi to review, there are just so many varieties and I how I love them so ( ^ω^ )
So every time I head up to Kyoto I always end up coming home with a box! Last year I took a to trip to Arashiyama 嵐山 a rather pretty district of western Kyoto for a day of momijigari 紅葉狩り(Autumn leaves viewing) with some friends. On the way home I picked up this box of Honeyapple yatsuhashi as I had yet to give the flavour a try.
A note in regards to the packaging, breaking away from the norm the box was squarish with 2 layers of yatsuhashi as opposed to the usual long rectangular box, not that that stopped me opening the second packet soon as I finished the first one however （≧∇≦）
Now these look more or less identical to the Kuri yatsuhashi 栗八つ橋 (chestnut) that I reviewed a couple weeks ago here.
That said the filling was radically different from any yatsuhashi I have ever tried before, I would consider these Japanese inspired mochi rather than anything traditional to say the least. Most Japanese sweets tend to go easy on the sweetness front most of the time, these however were very sweet and appley, the taste was quite reminiscent of apple pie filling, whilst maintaining the regular yatsuhashi texture and all in all incredibly delicious to the point where I ate the entire box in one sitting!!
They make for a tasty Aki 秋 (Autumn) treat and im’a give them 4.25/5.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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’.
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.
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).
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).
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.
Once it’s boiled down to a thick soupy consistency, serve it up in an athletically pleasing bowl.
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.
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.
Welcome to Chapter 10 of the Mochi Diaries, Kaki Mochi 柿餅!
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.
Now firstly upon opening them I was completely taken aback at the intricate detail that went into producing every single mochi in the box!
Made to resemble the fruit of which they are flavored the mochi consist of four separate ingredients.
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!
Today was mochitsuki (mochi making day) at my chuugakkou 中学校 (Junior High School). In what was literally the most touching thing that has happened to me since I arrived in Japan, a couple of my 2年生 (8th grade) students gave me some handmade mochi they made especially for me.
Apparently they had noticed how much my Japanese has improved since I arrived and they wanted to express their gratitude towards me for studying hard everyday so I could speak with them!
Yes today I bring to you yet another yatsuhashi instalment of The Mochi Diaries, and so this is Chapter 8 – Kuri Yatsuhashi 栗八つ橋.
The Kuri 栗 (chestnut) flavour is a popular mochi filling at this time of year as we are half way through Aki 秋(autumn).
Of corse there is to be an autumn variation of yatsuhashi and I came across this box at my favourite omiyage shop in Osaka a few weeks ago.
I’v tried many kuri flavored mochi in the past so I went in pretty much knowing exactly what to expect, however there is the addition of the awesome texture of the yatsuhashi wrappings that always brings the mochi noming experience up to the next level.
This aside I think I can safely say that these are my least favourite of the yatsuhashi flavours I have tried thus far.
I find the the Japanese autumn flavours to be on the bland side of things, having a large emphasis on starchy vegetables such as Kabocha 南瓜 (Pumpkin), Kuri 栗 (Chestnuts) and Satsumaimo さつま芋 (Sweet Potato). This really shined through with these kuri yatsuhashi, filled with the vaguely sweet kuri paste which I feel doesn’t compliment the outer mochi all that amazingly.
Regardless I still ate them all hungrily however in the future I think I’d prefer to stick with the more traditional cinnamon variety.
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.
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.
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).
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
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.
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.