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Sunday, July 29, 2012

Beni Imo Daifuku (紅いも大福)

The Okinawan purple sweet potato could not be resisted when I went to the market. After going to Mitsuwa's Okinawan food fair last week where Mr. Mochi and I had amazing beni imo ice cream, I was ready for another purple tuber recipe! I decided to make some mochi for my grandmother, since I had all the ingredients on hand and I haven't made any wagashi in a while.
At Mitsuwa, Mr. Mochi poses

I talked a little about beni imo in my Okinawan Sweet Potato Haupia Pie post, but today I would like to tackle the difference between beni imo and ube.

Ube, purple yam
Beni imo, as we know, is a white skinned purple fleshed sweet potato, which originated from the Americas but is embraced by the Japanese. Ube is a dark skinned purple fleshed yam which originated from Africa and is popular in the Philippines.  Ube is quite rare if not impossible to find here in America, unless it is frozen or powdered, and is more fibrous and less sweet than beni imo with a shaggier outside similar to other yams and taro.

This murasaki is yellow inside
beni imo cross-section
Now, if you see a picture of a purple sweet potato that is purple both in flesh and skin, you have neither beni imo or ube. You have.... *drum roll* a purple sweet potato. Sometimes called a murasaki imo ("murasaki" = purple) but usually a murasaki imo refers to a sweet potato with purple skin and white flesh.  Purple sweet potatoes exist here in America and are sometimes easier to find than beni imo, and will substitute flawlessly in both ube and beni imo recipes.

Confused? Don't worry, as long as it's purple fleshed, it will make great purple mochi!
A can of anko

Beni Imo Daifuku is a little weird to work with, because before it is steamed it doesn't look like it will turn out like mochi. The mashed sweet potato makes the dough look drier than you'd expect, but once it is steamed it will turn into the glossy and sticky mess that is the hallmark of mochi.

Katakuriko (片栗粉) is potato starch, but if you can't find potato starch you can just use mochiko, but potato starch is preferable because it is so soft and imparts no taste to the final wagashi.

Daifuku is a traditonal Japanese sweet where mochi that is wrapped around bean paste, like ichigo daifuku, which includes strawberry in addition to the sweet bean paste filling (anko).

Beni Imo Daifuku (紅いも大福)

1 cup of mochiko
1 cup of mashed beni imo
1/4 sugar
1/2 cup water
1/2 can of anko

Mix the sugar, water, mochiko, and beni imo together. It will be coarse and drier than normal mochi dough, but should still stick together nicely. Add a little more water if necessary to make sure everything binds together. Since your sweet potato might be drier or moister depending on the method used to cook it, 1/2 cup water is flexible. Roll your anko into ~1/2" balls and refrigerate until needed.

Place mixture in a damp cheesecloth lined steamer (or use a damp dishtowel) and steam for 20-30 minutes until mixture is sticky and glossy. Invert cloth onto a baking sheet dusted generously with katakuriko so that the mochi falls onto the sheet. Discard cloth or good luck getting that mochi off your dishtowel (seriously).

Wait approximately 1-2 minutes for the mochi to cool down a little, then pull off 1-1/2" inch balls of mochi. Dust your hands well with katakuriko to prevent sticking. I find spraying a little PAM on my hands also helps the katakuriko to stick to my dry hands better.  Roll mochi into a ball and then flatten into a disc. Place a ball of anko into the center of the disc and fold the mochi around the anko. Seal the mochi closed and dust with katakuriko to prevent from sticking to everything. Repeat with the remaining mochi, varying my sizes to make little or bigger daifuku. Do not refrigerate, but serve within 2-3 days for best taste.

Mochi is super easy to make, but also annoying the first time because it is so sticky. Don't worry about going overboard on the katakuriko, because excess brushes off super easy. This recipe is not very sweet, so if you want you can play around with the amount of sugar.

See Also:
Ichigo Daifuku
Okinawan Sweet Potato Haupia Pie


  1. I grew up on the stuff. There's also a dried and flaked product available (on Okinawa) that I use to make bread and pastries like cake and cheesecake. However, I'm running out and since I won't be going back to Okinawa real soon, I'm on the lookout for more.

    1. I've heard the dried product is really convenient! I've never seen it here in California, but perhaps I'm not looking close enough.

  2. Wonderful description! Thank you.

  3. I live in the Bay area and love your blog and recipes! I am a MOCHI instructor here, and Would love to chat with you about mochi, about experimenting with a lot of unique flavors recently :). Great job on your blog!

    1. How COOL! I love love love Mochi! What sort of flavors?