Strawberry Mochi

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Mochi display from Home Maid bakery

I’ve been fascinated with the idea of mochi for a long time.  My friend Marilyn Kakudo told me that if you make something with rice flour, it’s manju and not mochi.  Mochi should be made from pounded and processed rice.  (They actually have machines that are like reverse bread machines to make fresh mochi, according to Marilyn.  Her mother has one.)

I went around Hawaii tasting mochi and manju.  You can easily find the ice cream mochi in Asian markets here in the states and the ice cream version is what is mentioned in the header notes.   Although this mochi recipe and many mochi recipes on the web call for only rice flour, one of the websites indicated that a little bit of wheat flour produces a longer lasting dough.  (I don’t know whether this is true.)  The mochi book I have seemed to use rice flour, wheat flour, or a combination.

What’s interesting is that I found a YouTube video where a woman is demonstrating “Mochi” and it sounds like they were speaking Cantonese.  Since there are two similar Dim Sum sweets called Coconut balls (or Nomai Chi) and  Jin Duy (Fried rice balls), I wondered how related these items are.

The manju Wikipedia page said that manju (and mochi) are derived from a Chinese bread called mantau (white steamed bun).  While it’s possible that manju would be related to mantau, it seems more plausible that mochi is related to the glutinous rice balls found in the Chinese New Year’s soup and the Chinese New Year’s rice cake.  In general, it makes sense that all of the various Asian countries have glutinous rice sweets/savory dishes due to the extensive eating of rice itself.  [An example of another similar dessert is the Filipino Bibinka which seems to be a lot like what they call Butter Mochi in Hawaii.]  After looking at many Chinese cookbooks and comparing the proportions of rice to liquid, it seems plausible that the mochi are derived from the rice balls found in the Chinese New Year’s soup since at least one Japanese cookbook talks about a similar New Year’s soup.

Butter Mochi

Butter Mochi by Home Maid Bakery

Anyway, I was excited to try this recipe for strawberry mochi stuffed with the strawberry-cherry compote (especially since the compote is so great).

What you need to know:  Before you even start, figure out what kind of filling you want to use and either make it or buy it.  (You can buy red bean paste if you want to go with a more Asian flavor.  The mochi book I have uses all sorts of fillings.)  If you just go ahead and buy Mochiko brand sweet rice flour, that’s the easiest thing to do.  (There are other sweet rice flour brands in the Asian markets.  Mochiko brand is not really expensive, though.)  An unusual ingredient in the mochi dough is the dehydrated strawberries.  You can easily find these at Whole Foods.

The recipe itself is not difficult to do and doesn’t require any cooking beyond heating the rice flour/water mixture in the microwave.  What is different is that the dough is rolled and cut with a circular cutter.   You need to get potato starch for dusting before rolling.  The cutter gives very uniform circles.  In other recipes, little balls are formed, flattened, and the filling is added in a similar way that filled buns or dumplings are made.

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Strawberry Mochi + Chinese Nomai Chi

Outcome: The flavor is good and I like the texture.  Some found the outer skin to have a slightly uncooked taste.  Compared to the ice cream mochi in Hawaii, the outside was about the right thickness, texture and flavor, as far as I can tell.  Also, the compote (even though I had made sure to just get fruit and as little juice as possible) might have made the mochi a bit moister than some people liked.  I might try this again with a more traditional Chinese way of cooking the coconut balls.

As an aside, I made the traditional Chinese coconut balls (with peanut filling) and red bean paste filled glutinous rice balls.  Both of these sweets were steamed before serving.  (Both the Chinese sweets and mochi above did not keep very well.)  People really liked the coconut balls and Marilyn thought the red bean paste ones tasted more traditional to her.  (This would be most likely since her mother’s homemade mochi dough is fresh from the cooker and would have a thicker, more cooked taste than microwaved rice flour/water.)  I’d definitely do this again but using the Chinese steamed method.  I also want to try some baked mochi/manju.

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. vyvacious  |  November 6, 2012 at 12:53 pm

    Do you have a recipe for us to try? 🙂

    Reply
    • 2. etudesinfood  |  November 8, 2012 at 5:22 pm

      Well, I used the recipe from Johnny Iuzzini’s book. I just purchased a fun book that’s more Hawaiian – Unbearably good mochi lover’s cookbook. There’s also numerous recipes on the web. I think there may be a difference between the true Japanese, Hawaiian and Johnny’s recipe but have not made these for a while. I may re-visit it after trying some from the Hawaiian book.

      I apologize. I know a lot of people who reproduce recipes from cookbooks and either do so entirely or make a small change, post it and call it their own. This is a tiny bit dishonest and also hurts the person who developed the book. I would suspect that you could find Johnny’s book in the library now without competition to check it out.

      Reply

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