93-year-old Toshi Dogen, right, makes red bean mochi Saturday with other women at the Tacoma Buddhist Temple. Pictured at the head of the table is Toyoko Nakagawara.
Tacoma Buddhist Temple’s Fall Food & Crafts Bazaar
When: Sunday Nov. 2, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Where: Tacoma Buddhist Temple
Address: 1717 S. Fawcett Ave.
A&E editor Craig Sailor and I dropped by a mochi making party Saturday morning at the Tacoma Buddhist Temple. It was a flurry of mochi madness, with about 30 temple members – all women, except for a few men handling oven and dish duty – working six deep at long tables laden with delicious looking Japanese confections. They were churning out the treats, assembly line style, for the Fall Foods & Crafts Bazaar at the temple, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. this Sunday.
Toyoko Nakagawara smiled broadly as she lobbed golf-ball sized balls of sweet rice dough down the line of women at her table. A dusting of cornstarch kept the dough pliable. The volunteers reached for the dough chunks, shaping the discs around a small ball of red bean paste, then patting and mounding the whole thing into a smooth ball of delicious yum.
Her arms covered in cornstarch to her elbows, Nakagawara provided a fast tutorial of the Japanese dessert daifuku mochi. The dough is made from sweetened rice flour, a bit of sugar, some Karo syrup and just enough water to make it a sticky mess, said Nakagawara. Then, the glop of dough is steamed over a pot of boiling water for about 20 minutes until it is just the right gelatinous texture. Next, it’s rolled by hand around a creamy interior that is a mixture of sweetened beans. The red beans, azuki, are soaked overnight and boiled until tender, then sweetened with sugar and mashed and stirred until they are a sweet, tasty and sort of pasty consistency. Voila: daifuku mochi. You might recognize it in Japanese and Korean grocery stores wrapped in plastic wrap and sometimes colored pastel shades of pink and green.
Sounds easy? Well, as with most dessert making, it always sounds easier than it is. But the women at the temple Saturday made light work with many hands covered in cornstarch and churning out about 400 mochi in four hours. Nearby, another group of women made hundreds of kuri manju, a baked pastry shaped like a chestnut and filled with sweetened lima beans. The women will package the kuri manju and daifuku mochi and sell them at their fall food fair this weekend.
The gathering of women at the temple to prepare dessert before the food festival is a tradition that may be as old as 20 years, or longer. Members couldn’t quite pinpoint when they started, but they assured it was for a "very long time." The temple also hosts a spring sukiyaki dinner, and much preparation goes into preparing that meal, as well.
On Sunday, at the Temple’s fall food and crafts bazaar, temple members will sell the desserts, as well as chicken teriyaki, rice curry, chow mein, sushi, beef kabobs and udon noodles. Sumi-e painting and other arts and crafts events also will keep children and parents busy.
Wanting an easy introduction to mochi making? Nakagawara shared this recipe for a quick microwave mochi. Enjoy!