Sakura Mochi (Sweet Rice) & Hinamatsuri (Japanese Girls Day) 2010

Posted by on March 24, 2010 in Blog, Japanese Celebrations, Wagashi | Japanese Sweets | 19 comments

6-Sakura Mochi Bebe_Love_Okazu

For Bebe E’s first Hinamatsuri I decided to make Sakura Mochi for dessert.  This is a traditional Japanese confectionery or wagashi that is traditionally eaten on Hinamatsuri.

This was my first attempt at making mochi (rice cake).  As a teen I used to help out every December at our temple’s mochitsuki (mochi pounding ceremony),  but I was only responsible for shaping the mochi into little round patties.  That wasn’t going to help me much with this endeavor.

Photo Above:
Sakura Mochi decorated with sakura  (cherry blossom flowers) picked from a tree at Stoner Park in WLA.  I don’t think I was supposed to pick the flowers but I only took about six of them.  :)

I turned to my mom for help, but she told me that she’d never made Sakura Mochi before.  She said she always bought it in its ready-to-eat form.  I even asked several of my mom’s friends but they too had never made it!

Hmmm… so, I did what any other modern day girl would do.  I did a Google search and landed at About.com.  Haha.  I know, this is not very traditional Japanese, but I modified the mochi recipe I found there, used my mom’s Koshi-An (sweet red bean paste) recipe, and with a little help from S-san’s sakura (cherry blossom) tree, I ended up with a pretty good dessert!

Mom’s Koshian Filling

  • 2 cups azuki beans (red beans)
  • 1 1/3 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 1/2 cups water

In a large bowl, soak azuki beans in water overnight.  Rinse beans and drain.

Transfer beans to a large pot, add water, bring to a boil.

Turn down the heat to medium and simmer beans for about 10 minutes.  Skim foam and any residue that floats to the top of the pot.

Turn down the heat to low and simmer the azuki beans for about 1 1/2 hours, or until softened.  Stir beans occasionally to make sure that the beans don’t stick to the bottom of the pan and burn.

Most of the liquid should boil off, but the azuki beans will have a slightly watery texture.  Don’t worry if it looks too watery.  As the koshi-an filling cools, this water will be absorbed into the beans, and you will end up with a thick, creamy filling.

Add sugar and salt into the koshi-an mixture and stir constantly for about 5 minutes until the sugar is dissolved.  Don’t leave the stove unattended because your koshi-an will burn!  Turn off heat.

Sakura Mochi

When I was researching Sakura Mochi recipes, most all used Mochiko (sweet rice flour) to make smooth mochi, as opposed to mochi that resembled sticky rice.  The thing is, at the supermarket I’ve always seen textured Sakura Mochi where you could actually see the rice grains.  I thought this was traditional.  I’m not really sure which is more authentic for Sakura Mochi – smooth mochi versus textured rice-grainy mochi.

To make mochi, typically mochigome (glutinous rice / sweet rice) is cooked, then pounded with a large wooden mallet to make smooth rice cakes.  Ummm, if you know me in person… you know that I would have a hard time pounding rice, or even carrying a 10 pound bag of rice, so manual labor is OUT.

Per mom’s suggestion, I decided to use mochigome, which literally looks like sticky white rice, and make textured mochi in my rice cooker.  I modified a recipe found on About.com and came up with the following.

  • 3 cups sweet rice (glutenous rice)
  • 2 drops red food coloring
  • 2/3 cups sugar
  • 3 cups water according to the measurement guideline of the rice cooker(Makes approximately 16 – 18 Sakura Mochi)

Wash rice until water runs clear and drain.  Let drained rice stand for 30 minutes.  Meanwhile, dissolve sugar in about 1 cup of water in microwave for 1-2 minutes and let cool.

Add 2 drops of red food coloring to the sugar mixture.  This will make the rice pink.  It’s important to have PINK mochi for Girl’s Day.  :)  Add the pink sugar mixture to the rice and fill the rice cooker with 3 cups of water according to the measurements on the rice cooker.

SIDEBAR: I use a Zojirushi Fuzzy Logic rice cooker that I bought on sale at Marukai supermarket.  I love this thing because it has a timer that you can set to have your rice cooked in 1 to 13 hours.  This is perfect for when you want to soak your rice.  It also has a warmer.

Let the rice soak in the pink sugar mixture and water for 1 hour before cooking.  Allowing the rice to soak in the water will help to ensure that the cooked rice grains are soft and not hard in the center.  We do not want al dente mochi rice!

After the rice cooks, don’t open the rice cooker and let the rice steam for 30 minutes.  I kept the rice cooker on warming mode until I was ready to make the mochi and then unplugged the rice cooker to bring down the temperature of the mochi so it was easier to handle.

TIP: It’s easier to work with mochi if it is warm because it’s pliable.  I learned the hard way that if you don’t work quickly and let the mochi cool too much, its really difficult to shape.

Oh, for those of you that don’t mind a little manual labor, please feel free to smash the cooked rice a little bit with the shamoji (rice paddle) after its done steaming.  I didn’t do this, and honestly, my Sakura Mochi came out great.

I used a good size piece of saran wrap to cover the palm of my hand so that the mochi wouldn’t stick to my hand.  (I also use this technique when making onigiri or rice balls.)  Take about 2-3 tablespoons of mochi and spread on your palm in an oblong shape about 2 1/2 inches long.  Be careful not to spread the mochi too thin because then your koshi-an filling will break through the mochi when you are wrapping it.

Place a round 1 teaspoon scoop of koshi-an filling near the bottom center of your oblong mochi and then fold over the top half of the oblong and seal it by pressing the ends closed.  Voila!  Sakura mochi complete!  Well, almost…

Pickled Sakura (Cherry Blossom) Leaf

This was a challenge.

Me:  ”Mom, where do I buy pickled sakura no happa (cherry blossom leaf)?” Mom in Japanese: “EH?!? I’ve never seen THAT at Mitsuwa.”

Me: “Are you sure?  It’s probably sold in a jar or a can or something.  What about Marukai?”  Mom in Japanese:  ”EHHHH?!??  I’ve never seen THAT at Marukai.  Haven’t seen it at Nijiya or Safe and Save either.”

Me: “Hmmm.  Well, where do you suppose people buy those?”  Mom in Japanese: “People just buy it already wrapped on the ready-to-eat Sakura Mochi. People don’t want to buy JUST the sakura leaves.

Ok, mom didn’t really have a solution for me.  So once again, I Googled.

Yet I couldn’t find a pickled sakura leaf recipe, nor could I find anyone online who actually sold them pickled.  Then, I came across a suggestion to use canned pickled grape leaves as a substitute for sakura leaf for the mochi.  I decided against using this because I thought the flavor of the grape leaves would alter the taste of the Sakura Mochi.

Then my mom suggested calling my BFF’s (best-friend-forever whom I’ve been friends with since the age of 6) mom who she thought had a sakura tree in their backyard.  They didn’t.

BFF’s mom suggested calling S-san who indeed had a sakura tree but it only had a few baby leaves.  That was enough, so my mom, bebe E, and I got in the car and went over to S-san’s house in WLA.

The tree was beautiful!!!   The flowers were a gorgeous shade of dark pink and green buds that would eventually become cherries were abundant.  The leaves were small in comparison to the larger leaves typically seen on the Sakura Mochi at the supermarket but that was OK.  S-san encouraged us to pick as many baby leaves as we needed.  We took just a handful and in return we delivered some of my Sakura Mochi decorated with her leaves to say ‘thank you’.  :)

Oh, and I learned from S-san that the sakura tree is barren with only branches until the flowers start to bloom, then the leaves finally show up after the flowers have bloomed.  I never knew that!

The baby sakura leaves have a beautiful sweet fragrance and their bright green color were a wonderful compliment to my mochi.  I blanched the leaves in boiling water for 3 minutes but they were not palatable.

I am planning to return to S-san’s house in a few more weeks to pick sakura leaves that are still young but bigger.  By the time I go leaf-picking I need to find a recipe for pickling these things for next year’s Hinamatsuri.  Help!


19 Comments

  1. avatar

    omigod thank you so much i have been trying to find a good recipe for this for the past 2 hours lol im really determined…i was about to give in to the rich paste powder but then this came along and i was happy =)…also thanks for posting the recipe for the koshi-an…i dont know if its the same but can i use the koshi-an recipe to make simple anko dessert??? and if you do find a recipe for the leaf let me know too =)

    very happy thanks!!!

    • avatar

      Hi Matt, You’re welcome! Yes, the koshi-an can be used for other simple anko desserts. I indeed found a recipe for pickling the leaves but need to go and pick them first. :) Stay tuned… pickled leaf post coming soon. Thanks for visiting my blog!

  2. avatar

    Oh my god…such beautiful dish.
    I love the colour of it.

  3. avatar

    great job!!! for pickling the sakura leaves, you just salt the leaves and add a little water [depending on how much leaves you are trying to pickle]. Easy peasy.

    • avatar

      Thank you! I still need to go pick some leaves but it might already be too late!

  4. avatar

    I have made regular daifuku mochi before, but never thought about sakura mochi. I want to try it!
    Unfortunely, I live nowhere near LA, and the closest sakura tree is in the sakura tree park down in LA somewhere D:

  5. avatar

    Wow, thanks for posting this. I’ve been looking hard for a good sakura mochi recipe, and since I’ve had the pleasure of eating the textured ones in Japan I was a little skeptical of the smooth mochi option. I’m very exited to try this out! I have one question though. In other places on the internet I’ve read that you should steam the mochigome instead of boiling it like regular rice. Do you cook yours with a special setting on your rice cooker or do you cook it on the normal setting? I currently don’t have a rice cooker, but I found an alternative way to cook it on the stove in a Japanese cookbook that works pretty well. If you cook your mochigome on the normal setting, I can probably still make this work.

    • avatar

      Hi Erin, You’re welcome! I’ve only cooked mochigome in my rice cooker and I’ve never experimented by trying to cook it in a pot on the stove. When I cook it in my rice cooker, I just use the regular setting “cook”, however, the inner vessel has measurements on the side for regular white rice, mixed rice, and sweet rice (or mochigome). The water measurement for the mochigome is less than the amount needed for steaming regular white rice. That information likely doesn’t help your question, but regular rice seems to turn out OK when cooked on the stove and I’m not sure why the mochigome would not turn out. Perhaps because it is more dense and it is more likely to burn faster on the stove versus white rice? I’m sorry this doesn’t answer your question, but I feel as though it should work on the stove although the water measurements, heat and time required for cooking seem tricky. Please let me know how it turns out if you try cooking it on your stove. Sorry I couldn’t be of more help.

      • avatar

        Actually, that does help some. I went ahead and tried it. It did seem to work ok, but some of the rice was a little brown on the bottom. Hopefully I can either turn the heat lower or create a double boiler system so that it’s not directly on the heat. I used the 1 to 1 ratio of water and it seemed to turn out fine. It turned out that the rice I used before was old, so the end result tasted a little funny. But I got new rice and am ready to try round two on the small-scale until I can get it right. Thanks for the help.

  6. avatar

    One more question, just to throw it out there. I’ve been looking for a good shiroi taiyaki recipe. Any idea where I could find one? I’ll keep looking for now. I don’t even have my taiyaki pan yet.

    • avatar

      Sorry, I don’t know of a good source. I’ve never even thought to make taiyaki. :) My mom likes it but I know she’s always bought them and never made them before either. Let me know if you find a good recipe source. :) Happy holidays!

  7. avatar

    Thank you for this. With all the hype surrounding the cherry blossom festival here, we were surprised that sakura mochi is very hard to find around the DC area, especially fresh. Never thought of making it at home but you make it very do-able. Found a site on brining cherry leaves, have you tried that yet — I think we will have to wait until May when the leaves are big enough to pick to try this here. Don’t think we’ll have a problem finding cherry trees though… ; )

    • avatar

      I have not yet had the chance to brine cherry leaves but I’m very interested in still giving that a try. You’re so fortunate to be in the midst of cherry blossoms! I’ve never seen the sakura in DC in person, but I’ve always wanted to. I’ve seen photos online and it looks absolutely breathtaking. I hope you’ll enjoy the recipe and mochi. :)

  8. avatar

    I live far away from any oriental groceries, and have some canned koshian. I found your recipe by googling, and I am very excited to try it using my canned koshian. My family has mostly girls, and nieces, and granddaughters, so we love to make “Girl’s Day” dishes. Thank you for your authentic recipe and information.

    • avatar

      Hi there! Aww, I always love hearing about other folks celebrating Girl’s Day! It warms my heart. I hope you’ll enjoy the recipe! Cheers!

  9. avatar

    Hello!
    I just found your website, very excited to find a great sure with Washoku recipes. I, too, have searched everywhere for sakura no nappa with no success. If you ever do successfully pickle some sakura leaves, please post instructions, I’d love to try (I have access to fresh sakura leaves.) Thanks!

    • avatar

      Hi! Thanks for stopping by my blog! That has always been a sore spot for me about this particular recipe. Ok, now I need to find some young sakura leaves to provide you with a recipe. ;) I’ll keep you posted!

  10. avatar

    Aloha~

    I found your page after googling for a recipe, and then found this one as well which contains a source for pickled cherry leaves: http://justhungry.com/eating-sakura-cherry-blossoms-and-leaves-article-japan-times. Enjoyed reading about your mochi making.

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