Today is Children’s Day -こどもの日- in Japan, a day to celebrate and honour the personalities and the individual strengths of children and to wish happiness upon them. However, it is formally known as Boys’ Day, and personally we are keeping it as such since there is a separate day for girls on 3 March and it would only seem fair that little boys get a day of their own, too. Since my nephew, Babel, is half-Japanese and my sister recently gave birth to our newest family member, Harry, we have been given more incentive to stick to the old celebration rather than the new version.
There are quite a few traditions that takes place on 5 May, like displaying the flying carp streamers (according to legend, a spirited carp swam upstream, through waterfalls to eventually be transformed into a dragon; a story symbolising success, strength and courage) and the kabuto, a traditional military helmet (the symbolism here is one of strength and vitality) to name but a few. And, of course, there is the food that accompanies these wonderful traditions. There is chimaki, a glutinous rice mochi wrapped in bamboo leaves or, to a lesser extent, iris leaves (hopefully I will be able to make this next year for Boys’ Day). It is more common to eat this delicacy in the Kansai areas with the iris flower symbolising the warding off of evil.
And then, there is my personal favourite: the kashiwa mochi. This little delicacy is a rice cake (sometimes even flavoured with mugwort) filled with a sweet bean paste and wrapped in a single pickled oak (kashiwa) leaf. Like many of the symbols used on this specific holiday, the kashiwa mochi themselves represent strength, longevity and good fortune as the oak leaves do not fall off the tree until the new shots begin to grow.
I’ve been wanting to make this mochi for a very long time now and I am so glad that I have finally done so and can now tick it off as another recipe I would happily serve in the future.
But a few things need to be pointed out prior to attempting these little gems:
- It has become rather common place to use a microwave to make the mochi as it shortens the cooking time by approximately 10 minutes. However, I do not own a microwave (out of principle) and much prefer to cook with a hob (and an oven) or to steam foods. Therefore, this recipe will be using the steaming method.
- The oak leaf is not edible. It, of course, imparts a beautiful earthy, grass-like flavour to the mochi, which does remind me of sencha green tea, but it can be left out if desired and simply eaten with green tea instead.
- I use koshi-an paste here as a filling, but feel free to experiment with flavours, like a sweet white miso filling. (Fun Fact: when the underside of the leaf is facing outwards of the mochi, then the filling is azuki bean paste, if the leaf is right way up and the underside of the leaf is facing inwards towards the mochi, then the sweet miso flavour is being used).
- The rice flour used here is called joshinko. It is a non-glutinous rice flour made from milled short-grain rice, as opposed to mochiko and shiratamako, for example, which are two different glutinous rice flours. Joshinko is chewy and firm in texture and is primarily used for confectionaries such as dango and daifuku.
- The mochi dough can be frozen successfully, so you could easily make this in advance. Simply wrap individual mochi pieces in clingfilm and place in an airtight container and freeze.
source: Just One Cookbook
Cooking time: 30 minutes (note: the koshi-an paste has to be prepared in advance)
Makes: 10 kashiwa mochi
As mentioned earlier, if you wish to make these in advance, simply make and freeze the mochi balls without the oak leaf. Allow to defrost and come to room temperature before kneading and filling before wrapping in an oak leaf and allow to infuse for at least an hour on a plate covered in clingfilm.
10 pickled oak leaves
160g koshi-an paste (recipe here)
200g joshinko (Japanese non-glutinous rice flour)
2tbsp potato starch plus extra for dusting
2tbsp caster sugar
250ml water, plus extra
Wash the oak leaves, pat dry and set aside. Place the joshinko, potato starch and sugar in a bowl and whisk together. Add the water and continue to whisk until a loose batter is formed. Pour into a heatproof bowl that will fit into a cooking pot. Pour enough water into the pot so that the height of the
water is 1 inch on the sides of the pot. Allow to come to a boil over a high heat before placing the heatproof bowl into the water. Reduce the heat to a medium flame and cover with a lid (note: wrap a tea towel or cloth around the lid so that no condensation falls into the mochi). Steam for 15 minutes, stirring the mochi batter every 5 minutes (ensuring that the lid is always placed back on top).
When the mochi is ready, it will have turned from matt white to a somewhat translucent paler tone and the dough itself will be solid and sticky. Pour out onto a board dusted in potato starch and allow to cool for 2-3 minutes (it will be quite hot), then knead it gently and roll it out into a long sausage big enough to cut off 10 pieces (keep these in a bowl under a damp cloth to stop them from drying out). Either using your hands or a rolling pin, flatten each cut piece into an oval shape before placing a ball of koshi-an into the centre and sealing the edges shut. Cut off any excess before placing in an oak leaf. Repeat the process with the rest of the mochi.
Store in a air tight container in the refrigerator for at least an hour (to allow the oak leaf to impress the mochi with its delicate perfume) or overnight (I did this and the mochi was still perfectly chewy and firm without being dry).
Thank you for reading.