My pantry holds the goods for many recipes I hope to make, some get made while others do not. I bought a box of mochiko (sweet rice flour) and azuki beans (dried red beans) with the intent of making mochi. They’ve sat in my cupboard for some time, just waiting for their day in the spotlight.
I fell in love with the texture of mochi several years ago. A sweet filling surrounded in a chewy, soft dough – what’s not to love? Common to the Japanese, mochi are quite popular and can be found in nearly every Asian market.
The azuki beans (aka adzuki) are small, dark red beans typically made into a paste and sweetened. The red bean paste is common in many Chinese desserts and pastries. The bag said to soak them overnight, but since I’m horrible about planning ahead, I skipped this step entirely. I placed 2/3 cup of the beans into a pot and covered with water. I simmered in a covered pot for 1.5 hours and had to add more water midway through cooking. You want the beans to be soft.
Drain the beans and place into a blender. Puree beans then scoop into a bowl and stir in 1/2 cup sugar. The beans were thick but when the sugar was added they become much more moist, almost runny. The next step will remove the moisture and create the correct paste-like consistency.
Heat a skillet over medium heat with a few tablespoons vegetable oil. Pour in the bean mixture. Using a spatula or spoon, move the mixture around in the pan. Continue to stir until the mixture turns into a thick paste. It will also darken to a deep purple-red color. Remove from heat. Once it has cooled, place into a bowl and refrigerate.
You can also buy red bean paste in a can from an asian market. I figured I should try making it before buying a prepared version. It turned out to be easy enough to do.
Now for the chewy dough, which has mesmerized me. Once again, it’s quite simple to make, it just uses ingredients that aren’t common to Westerners. You need to use mochiko, also known as sweet rice flour or glutinous rice flour.
Mix 2 cups mochiko with 1 cup sugar, then add 1 3/4 cup warm water. Stir to form a batter. Pour into a heatproof bowl and place into a steamer for 30-40 minutes or until the dough is firm and set. Aside from steaming vegetables, this cooking technique may not be too familiar to some. You can use any type of steamer that you may have. My bamboo steamer was too small for my bowl so I used my wok and covered it with a lid.
The dough will be a white sticky blob. Allow it to cool so you can handle it. In the meantime, take out your red bean paste and form teaspoon sized balls. The paste is firm enough to easily work with. In a flat dish, like a pie plate, put 1/4 cup cornstarch. Cornstarch is used to dampen the stickiness of the dough. It’s not optional — it’s required. The dough is the stickiest thing you’ll ever encounter.
When the dough has cooled, scoop a golfball sized piece of dough and drop into the cornstarch. Lightly toss to coat the outside of the ball so you can handle it. Roll the dough into a ball, then flatten to form a 3″ circle. Place the red bean paste in the center and pinch edges together to seal. Roll the ball in the cornstarch once again, then roll between the palms of your hands to create a ball shape. Repeat until done. Makes ~2 dozen.
Mochi can be left at room temperature for a few days or refrigerated for longer keeping. I put mine in the fridge because I like the extra chewy texture it creates. They turned out perfectly and taste like the real thing. Mochi can be served as dessert but also work perfectly for snacking (um, like right now).
Now that I know how to make them, I’m anxious to play with the flavorings and fillings. Some mochi come in different colors or are flavored with green tea, cocoa, etc. Ice-cream mochi are to die for, instead of red beans the dough is wrapped around a ball of ice-cream to make a treat so much better than an ice-cream sandwich!