Monday, May 31, 2010

Strawberry Mochi (Ichigo Daifuku)

Three firsts came together for this recipe: the first local strawberries, my first time making red bean paste (the first time I liked red bean paste for that matter) and my first time making mochi.  Red bean paste is simply boiled adzuki beans, sweetened, and then cooked down to a doughy consistency.  Mochi is made from ground-up cooked short-grain white rice that is pounded into a bouncy goo much like African fufu.
I was supposed to wrap this extremely sticky mochi around a sphere of red bean paste containing one strawberry.  The problem was that said mochi infinitely preferred to stick to my fingers rather than to the red bean paste.  After the first attempt I thought this recipe was an epic fail.  If I hadn't needed a photo for the blog, I would have given up right then.  Eventually I learned to dust my fingers with potato starch at every opportunity and I think the mochi may have dried a bit as I played with it, because the rest of the dumplings came together with relatively little hassle.
Knowing what I did about mochi and red bean paste going into this endeavor, I did not expect to like these, but they are totally delicious.  The strawberry is a juicy burst of freshness complemented by the earthy sweetness of the red bean paste set against the soft, chewy blandness of the mochi.  Contrary to what the authors say about these being good for only five hours, they have kept well in the refrigerator for a couple of days and are just fine eating cold.  Although I was tempted to eat them all within five hours.


AlwaysJoy said...

OMG do you have this recipe? I gotta make!

Deborah said...

All of the recipes on my blog this year are from The Dumpling: A Seasonal Guide by Wai Hon Chu and Connie Lovatt. While I can't reproduce it word for word, I can tell you how I did it.

You need:
12 1-inch strawberries
1/2 cup dried adzuki beans
1/3 cup sugar (I used Rapadura)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup water
1 cup sushi rice
1/2 cup potato starch
1 clean coffee grinder or spice grinder
1 rice cooker or pot with steamer
1 blunt object

I made the red bean filling first. You can do this a couple of days ahead. Soak 1/2 cup adzuki beans in plenty of water for 6-8 hours, rinse, put in a pot and cover with 2 inches of water. Bring them to a boil, then cover, reduce the heat to low, and simmer 45-60 minutes until soft.

While the beans are cooking, you can prepare the syrup. Mix 1/3 cup sugar, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 cup water in a saucepan and heat it, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Once the beans are cooked, drain them and mix them into the syrup. Bring the mixture to a simmer for 5 minutes.

Put the bean mix into a food processor and process until it's a grainy paste. The book says 3 minutes but I don't think I did it that long. Put the paste back into the same saucepan it started in and stir it over medium heat until it turns into a "doughy ball." The book says 3 to 5 minutes but it took longer for me. Once it's a consistency that will hold its shape when molded, set it aside and let it cool.

Next, prepare the mochi. Start with 1 cup short-grain sweet (sushi) rice and grind it coarsely in a clean coffee grinder or spice grinder. What the book says to do now is soak it for 30 minutes and then steam it in a cloth-lined steamer basket for 40 minutes. I just used a rice cooker. Mine may have ended up too wet that way, but it worked all right in the end. I cooked the 1 cup ground-up rice with 1 1/2 cups of water just as I would cook whole rice.

After the rice is cooked, scoop it into a big sturdy bowl and start mashing it with a blunt object. I used the end of a French rolling pin. You should mash it until it is "smooth, bouncy, and very sticky, about 10 minutes." I made the mistake of pounding it in the metal pot from my rice cooker, which is now bent out of shape on the bottom. After the rice is smooth and bouncy, knead in 1/4 cup potato starch.

Now comes the fun part: putting it all together.

Take the 12 small strawberries, rinse, and cut off the green parts. Divide the red bean paste into twelve parts. Roll one into a ball and press it into a thin bowl-shape, into which goes the strawberry. Roll it in the palms of your hands until the paste surrounds the strawberry completely. Repeat for remaining strawberries. That was the easy part.

Now dust your fingers with potato starch and take a lump of mochi about the size of a golf ball. Flatten it into a bowl as you did with the red bean paste. Dust everything with potato starch as frequently as necessary. Put the red bean ball into the center of the mochi bowl and push the edges together around the filling. Pinch together to seal. Repeat and eat!

I hope this helps.

Isabela said...

Thank you for the recipe...looks delicious. I think I will try. :)