I got back from Tokyo a week ago and I’m still buzzing from the food filled week I had with my parents. There’s so much to write about, but here’s a post on some of my favorite mochi and manju. Mochi is made of pounded glutinous rice and is usually stuffed with a variety of goodness (usually with red bean paste and black sesame paste). To my knowledge, manju is a steamed version of mochi. Steaming the manju gives a completely different texture altogether. The flour becomes a light dough- almost like a Chinese Bao. They are best fresh so I scoped out a few markets, department stores and underground train stations for these treats.
Nothing says spring like strawberries. My first encounter with this luscious mochi was at the Tsukiji Fish Market. I didn’t get to take a picture of my first one because after I bit into the huge, juicy, sweet and aromatic Japanese strawberry, I couldn’t resist and took another bite, then another, until there was nothing left but dusting flour. First of all, Japanese strawberries are magical. They are especially fragrant, smooth, delicate and they can grow as big as the size of your palm. The succulent strawberry was coated with a delicate layer of red bean paste and then wrapped in the soft, squishy and thin skin of dough. Sweet and fresh worked well with the acidity from the strawberry and I’m drooling just thinking about it.
Here’s another spring mochi for you. I know what you’re thinking… grass? At first I thought there must have been a mistake in the translation but it is indeed made out of the Yomogi plant. The sticky mochi had a texture of finely shredded dry leaves which reminded me of green tea leaves, and was filled with sweet red bean paste. There was a hint of crisp chlorophyll, which reminded me of the smell of freshly mowed lawns.
I came across this pretty little thing on my walk through the Shinjuku train station and couldn’t resist and bought a box of them. There was a pickled Sakura flower on top which was slightly sour and had a plum-like aftertaste. The filling was a simple, yet textured and fleshy red bean paste. I expected to be blown away by a floral perfume in my first bite but instead, I found that Sakura flavored treats actually reminded me of marzipan. It could just be me though, because my mom disagrees with my analogy.
Red Bean Paste Mochi
This one is a classic. I found it at the Takashimaya department store in Shinjuku and was immediately captivated by the beans dotting the outer layer. The flour was so soft that my finger sunk in, until it met the denser filling in the center. This one was perfectly sweet with a hint of salt and had a taste that reminded me of maple syrup. I can’t stress over how heavenly soft the flour was and how I loved how the extra whole red beans gave another dimension to the texture of the mochi.
Here is a manju version of the classic bean paste filling:
Water Chestnut Mochi
I came across this at the Tsukiji fish market too. What caught my eye was the simple yet stunning watercolor-like brushstroke that was painted on its white dough. The skin was thin and light while the center was filled with red bean paste and a syruped water chestnut. There was a similar consistency all through the mochi which resulted in a denser bite.
That wraps up my mochi and manju adventures! Other posts from Tokyo will be up after I get past this crazy week.
Also, if you are in Massachusetts, check out Mochi Kitchen. They cater and deliver handmade mochi!