Thursday, May 05, 2005

the Origins of Sakuramochi

My Kyoto Week is almost coming to a conclusion!!! This is my second to last Kyoto-themed post!

Don't worry, I still have a ton of exciting pictures to share with you from my home town of Nagoya, as well as recipes and dishes I will be creating with all the fun ingredients I brought back from Japan.

This post will be short, since I am going to a Cake concert and I have to prepare for a feast I am cooking up for 16 people tomorrow. Yes, 16. That's right. Do you want a sneak peak at the menu?

White-miso stuffed trout grilled in bamboo leaves
Chicken yakitori-style with yuzu pepper
Chicken tsukune with aged soy sauce teriyaki
Aged mirin basted grilled shiitake
Asparagus, cucumber, wakame ponzu salad
Asian greens with vinegared miso salad
Cherry blossom rice onigiri

Artisan kinako powder-dressed yoshinokuzu warabimochi.
Authentic deep green tea tasting (and 'guess which tea' competition
with prizes!)

Do you notice the Kyoto spirit?! Please tell me you do!!!

Anyway, I am deviating from the theme of today's post! The sakuramochi!

Sakuramochi is the symbol of Spring in Japan. The Mogurin had one on one of his very earliest trips and has been in love with them since. The leaves wrapping the sticky rice and red bean (anko) is salty, and the layers of the salty leaf, the neutral rice, and the sweet red bean make for a wonderful harmony inside your mouth as you chew. It is as common as oysters in the cold months here, but I never thought about where the sakuramochi originated - it was always there for me, and I never questioned its origins.

While in Arashiyama, I found out that the sakuramochi was originally conceptualized there. What a historical achievement! The unsung hero of the Japanese bean pastry world! As you would expect, the main street was full of shops claiming to be the original shop to create the treat, and since I wasn't sure which one it would be anyway, I hopped into one that looked good. Well, I got suckered into this shop, because they had free samples I spotted while walking past it...

The free samples were absolutely adorable bite-size miniature sakuramochis. It was SOOOO cute but the flavors were beyond cute. This was the real deal. The anko was smooth as silk and the sweetness was just right on mark to match the cherry leaf and the rice. Despite the changes in proportion, this sample was made to give you the exact same flavors as the bigger versions. I was impressed!

I proceeded to buy two kinds of sakuramochi they had. I didn't know there were more than one, but apparently, the Arashiyama specialty are the ones without anko inside. These have the rice balls exposed even after wrapping by the cherry leaf and were dotted with a cherry blossom petal. The rice was lightly sweetened and the whole combination was pleasantly satisfying. We each had one Arashiyama-style and one regular sakuramochi, and they were quite substantial! Accompanied by tea, these were a wonderful mid-morning snack. Mmmmm!!

Don't forget to come back this weekend to check on how my dinner went!! I'll post recipes and pictures if you promise to leave comments!


Robyn said...

Ahh I want mochi!

That menu looks amazing! I wouldn't know how to prepare those foods...or I'd be too lazy to do so. Maybe I'd do it if someone offered to clean up my mess afterwards, hehe.

Anonymous said...

I LOVE sakura mochi. I haven't had it for a LONG time, though, because I'm in inaka, and there are no Japanese people here! Thanks for sharing that interesting information, and good luck with your big dinner! Gambare!

Alice said...

Robyn and Mariko-san,

Thanks!! I think the dinner went pretty well. It was all actually very easy. I'll post some recipes very soon!