Thursday, February 9, 2012

Ichigo Daifuku (いちご大福)

Traditional Japanese sweets, called wagashi (和菓子), are often enjoyed with tea and made from rice, beans, and fruit. Unlike most western tea cakes which might use animal products like butter and milk, wagashi is traditionally vegan.

As a child, one of my favorite after-school snacks was a piece of mochi, or perhaps a daifuku, where plush mochi encases a center of sweetened bean paste called anko. At first I was wary, sure that that my mochi would be tainted by the addition of beans. After all, the anko resembled Mexican refried beans!

One of my earliest memories I can recall involving my hapa upbringing happens to involve daifuku mochi. When I was around kindergarten age, I brought some over to my next door neighbor, a first generation Korean girl. Her mother asked me what they were called in English (she was learning English) and I said proudly,

"Rice Cakes!"

Bamboo steamer on top of a pot
Later that week, we had as a snack some American rice cakes, and she asked me what they were called in English...

"Rice Cakes!"

She then teased me that apparently everything was called "rice cakes" because somehow both the soft squishy sweet daifuku mochi and the crispy dry salty rice cakes were both the same words. I admitted that it stumped me too, why they were both called rice cakes.

I marched right next door and accosted my Japanese American grandmother,

Let the steamed mochi cool!
"Grandma, why are rice cakes and rice cakes both rice cakes?" (Obviously a career in oration was imminent from my eloquent ways)

Once my grandmother was able to glean what the hell I meant, she explained how the daifuku mochi was a rice cake in Japan and that a rice cake was more of a rice cracker/bread/thing in America, and that we ate the mochi because our family is originally from Japan. She then told me that the real word for the squishy rice cake was "mochi."

"Mochi! Moooooochi! Momomochi!"
"Okay, Miss Mochi, be quiet."

Since then, not only have I managed to not yell cool words aloud* but also make homemade wagashi: Ichigo daifuku mochi. Ichigo daifuku is mochi that has been wrapped around sweet azuki bean paste (anko) and fresh strawberries. 

Strawberries wrapped in anko
*except "Smegma!" at work. It's like smutty magma!

Ichigo Daifuku (いちご大福)

2 cups mochiko
1 cup sugar
2 cups hot water
1 can anko/tsubushian/Koshian (azuki bean paste)
katakuriko (potato starch)
1 dozen fresh washed strawberries

bean paste in a can
First, mix mochiko and sugar together, then slowly mix in the water until you have a dough free from lumps. Steam dough on a dishtowel or cheesecloth lined steamer for 30 minutes. While the mochi is steaming, cut the tops off the strawberries and take approx a golfball sized amount of anko and flatten around the strawberry. After you have coated all the strawberries, I like to put it in the fridge. Once the mochi is done, invert the cloth over a pan dusted with katakuriko, and let the blob of mochi cool like 1-2 minutes. After it is cool enough not to burn you, take about a golfball sized amount of mochi and flatten it. Slowly stretch the mochi around the anko/strawberry mix, be careful not to rip the mochi.

SUPER NOT SO SECRET MISS MOCHI TECHNIQUE: Mochi is super sticky, so my probably not very traditional but very helpful trick is to light spray your hands with PAM, wipe off excess, then dip them in the katakuriko. The PAM makes the potato starch stick to your palms better, rather than the mochi.

See Also:
Beni Imo Daifuku
Microwave Jello Mochi
Deconstructed Ichigo Daifuku


1 comment:

  1. During the time I lived in Okinawa, one of the treats I loved was anything mochi, but I especially remember the ichigo daifuku. Thank you for sharing this recipe!