One of my favorite traditional wagashi is ichigo daifuku mochi, but it is a pain to make. You have to steam the mochi for 20-30 minutes, then wrap it around strawberries and anko while its still hot enough to stretch, but not hot enough to burn your hands. I've accidentally grabbed a glob of steaming hot mochi and believe me its not fun!
Shaping the mochi around the strawberry takes about 1-2 minutes per strawberry, and I can only make about 15 daifuku before the mochi gets too cold to stretch or I run out of mochi. Plus the molding of the anko around the strawberries also takes time, though not as sticky or annoying as working with the mochi. So when you have coworkers capable of eating 4 of these babies in the blink of an eye, this sucks!
In a stroke of genius (I am nothing if not modest, lol) I came up with an easier way to get the flavor of ichigo mochi without all the work. This isn't really a recipe, but an idea of awesome proportion. My mochi aficionado at work tried this and agreed its not as amazing as the real deal, but is awesome because its so easy to prepare when you have the craving. For those of you who want to make Ichigo Daifuku, I do have the recipe for that at well. It is not as hard as I bitch about, no worries!
I first made this in an individual portion (above picture) to see how I liked it. Then I busted out a pyrex pie dish and made a whole plate to bring into a meeting for work. Some of my coworkers that hadn't tried the flavor combination of mochi, strawberries, and anko were a bit wary. But my doctor who hadn't tried it before said,
"Oh man, I was wondering what this all was, but when you take a bite of each of them, it tastes amazing and you see how it comes together!"
Deconstructed Ichigo Mochi
1 can of anko
1 box of strawberries
1 package of bite sized mochi
Wash, hull and quarter the strawberries. Place the mochi on your serving dish. Take a spoon and spoon out the anko over the mochi in desired quantities, about 1/2 teaspoon chunks. Sprinkle the strawberries over the anko and mochi and serve. I do not suggest refrigerating this, or any mochi for that matter, because mochi gets weird in there.
One of my main complaints about this is that the bite sized mochi was too sweet. I think because it was destined to be put on frozen yogurt a la Pinkberry, but it wasn't as tasty as homemade in that respect. Perhaps I will make my own mochi bits. You can find both the anko (azuki bean paste) and the mochi bits at Mitsuwa or Marukai.
Traditional Japanese Wagashi