Ask a local what the most commonly found Japanese food is in South Sound and the answer will be “teriyaki.” Teriyaki restaurants here are so prolific, I have jokingly pondered if local zoning at one time required strip malls to secure one as a tenant before building permits could be issued.
Thumbing through a typical teriyaki restaurant menu, look beyond teriyaki, the ubiquitous katsu and big plates of yakisoba. It’s the last page of the menu, often listed in fine print, where I’d point your attention – to mochi. It’s the unsung darling of the confectionery world. In teriyaki restaurants, you might find mochi ice cream in flavors such as mango or green tea. There’s another style of mochi that needs to be on your radar – daifuku mochi.
The bite-sized confections filled with sweetened bean paste will be for sale Sunday at the Tacoma Buddhist Temple’s Fall bazaar, alongside a menu of Japanese favorites, such as sushi, udon, teriyaki and kebabs, priced $1-$9 (see more details at the end of this story).
Tacoma Buddhist Temple members assemble by hand the two-bite-size daifuku mochi during the weeks preceding the temple’s annual food and arts event. Temple members pound the dough flat, then shape it into thin, chewy skins that are stuffed – assembly-line style – with a mixture of red beans simmered with sugar and reduced to a delicious paste. The resulting confection has a pleasant tug. The dense bean filling provides a balance to the dessert’s gummy jacket.
If you’ve not yet discovered Japanese confections, you have a wide world of exploring to do right here in the South Sound. The Tacoma Buddhist Temple’s bazaar on Sunday is a good place to start for daifuku mochi. Also, grocery stores specializing in Japanese ingredients carry all kinds of mochi, as well as other Japanese sweet treats. Four you should try:
Daifuku mochi: Thinly pounded dough made from glutinous rice flour. The thin skins are molded around small balls of sweetened red beans. The texture is chewy and creamy.
Frozen mochi: A ball of ice cream wrapped in a thin layer of mochi dough. Should be eaten frozen, but I like mochi best after resting at room temperature for 10 minutes. The rice skin is chewy, but breaks to a velvety interior. For mango or green tea varieties, try the Mikawaya brand. For strawberry, I prefer maeda-en. Find mochi ice cream in the freezer case.
Manju: There are many styles of manju, but what locals will find labeled as manju at bakeries inside grocery stores such as PalDo World and H-Mart are mini baked pastries filled with sweetened red beans or ground chestnuts. The exterior texture can range from a consistency similar to pastry or a doughnut, the filling is creamy with a slightly grainy texture.
Yokan: A thick jelly dessert made of sugar, bean paste and agar. The texture is thick and gelatinous. Like most Japanese treats, it is lightly sweetened. (Slightly harder to find than mochi or manju).
Find all those confections at:
PalDo World: 9701 South Tacoma Way, Lakewood, 253-581-7800 (look for the treats in the on-site bakery, Boulangerie)
H-Mart: 8720 South Tacoma Way, Lakewood, 253-314-5066, hmartus.com (look for the treats in the on-site bakery, Olive Bakery)
Boo-Han Market: 9122 South Tacoma Way, Lakewood, 253-588-7300, Facebook (look for the treats at the front of the store)
Asian Market:11715 Bridgeport Way SW, Lakewood, 253-582-1158, Facebook (look for the treats at the front of the store)
Tacoma Buddhist Temple Bazaar
When: 11 a.m.- 4 p.m. Sunday Nov. 3, 2013
Where: Tacoma Buddhist Temple, 1717 S. Fawcett Ave., Tacoma
Contact: 253-627-1417, tacomabt.org
On the menu: Udon, sushi, chicken teriyaki, kebabs and chow mein, as well as daifuku mochi. Prices range from $1-$9
Also at the bazaar: Artwork and crafts, a rummage sale and sumi-e watercolor paintings.
Make mochi at home
Every year, Tacoma Buddhist Temple members gather for a mochi making party where they assemble hundreds of the chewy Japanese pastries called daifuku mochi. Temple member Toyoko Nakagawara has shared her recipe – adapted for a home kitchen.
For the dough:
1-1/2 cups sweet rice flour (see purchasing note)
1/2 cup sugar
1-1/2 cups water
1/4 cup corn syrup
For the bean filling:
2 pounds azuki beans (dried red beans)
5 cups sugar
1 teaspoon salt
Water to fill
For the dough: Mix rice flour and sugar together well in a microwave-safe large bowl. Add water and mix well with wooden spoon, then add the corn syrup and mix until combined. Cover mixture in microwave-safe bowl with stretchable plastic food wrap to create a dome during microwaving. Microwave on high for 8 to 9 minutes. Remove plastic cover. (Be careful, the plastic wrap will be hot.) Quickly knead the mochi dough with a wooden spoon. Roll mochi out onto a large cutting board sprinkled with corn starch. Divide mochi into 14 or 15 pieces. Then, flatten the discs and fill with the azuki bean filling and then mound into a circular shape.
For the bean filling: Put azuki beans in a bowl, cover with water and soak overnight until soft to the touch. Rinse beans and then place them in a pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, cover and turn the heat to low. Simmer until beans are soft, about an hour. Remove the lid and cook beans until water has reduced and beans are fully cooked. Add sugar and salt and cook until water is nearly gone, being careful not to let the beans get too mushy. Remove mixture and place into a microwave safe bowl and microwave until the mixture is just softer than the texture of cookie dough. (The dough will stiffen as it cools, so be careful not to let it get too thick.) Let mixture cool and form azuki filling into small balls to be placed inside mochi dough.
Purchasing notes: Sweet rice flour and red beans can be purchased at Japanese and Korean grocery stores. Try Paldo World, Asian Market and BooHan Market in Lakewood and East Asia Supermarket in Tacoma. Nakagawara likes the Blue Star Brand Sweet Rice Flour from Koda Farms. You can buy the azuki filling already prepared at the Korean or Japanese grocery stores. Azuki beans are sometimes spelled adzuki or adukil.