Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Kuzumochi (葛餅) - Japanese Chilled Dessert Mochi (Vegetarian/Vegan)

Get ready. I'm about to throw out a BUNCH of Japanese words.

Kuzumochi (葛餅) are
mochi cakes, made of kuzuko, then served chilled and topped with kinako and kuromitsu. Served in the oppressive heat in the summer, these, along with pretty much ANY mochi, are one of my favorite Japanese treats.

You have NO idea what I'm takling about, right? Well, I'll explain more than you probably EVER wanted to know about kuzumochi.

First of all, kuzumochi are wagashi (
和菓子), which are traditional Japanese desserts, typically made only from natural, plant-based ingredients, and served with tea. Wagashi are almost always vegan, and the name, based in ancient literature, represents "natural beauty".

Ok, mochi are Japanese rice cakes, made of super-sticky glutinous rice; the rice is soaked overnight, cooked, pounded with wooden mallets called kine in a mortar known as an usu. Typically, two people do the pounding in a rhythmic motion; the mochi is then cooled and formed into shapes. Nowaways, though, many people prepare mochi from a flour known as mochiko; simply mix the water and flour until sticky and opaque, then cook until stretchy and slightly translucent.  

Mochis are used in traditional Japanese sweets (wagashi), added to ice cream, eaten in soups, and more.

Kuzumochi are mochi cakes that are made of kuzuko (kuzu powder), which is a starch powder made from the root of our favorite itinerant weed, kudzu, aka "the vine that ate the South". This powder is used mainly as a thickener for sauces and jellies, but also in desserts. Since this type of mochi is made with kuzuko instead of glutinous rice or mochiko, this dessert is gluten-free.

The kuzumochi is topped with kuromitsu (literally, "black honey:) which is a Japanese sugar syrup (like molasses, but milder and thinner) and kinako, which is a sweet powder ground from roasted soybeans.

Confused yet? Don't be - let's make some kuzumochi!

Kuzumochi (葛餅)
adapted from Just Hungry

3 1/2 oz (100g) kuzu powder*
1/4 cup (50g) granulated sugar
2 1/2 cups + 2 Tbsp water
Kinako (ground roasted soybean powder)
Kuromitsu (Japanese "black honey" - substitute dark corn syrup, molasses, or, make your own**)

*There isn't a good substitute for kuzu powder; if you can't find it in your Asian market, you may have better luck at a health foods store or Whole Foods. I've found kuzu powder sold by Eden Foods as "kuzu root starch" at Whole Foods. *

Combine the kuzu powder (yes, I know it looks like crack rocks), sugar and water in a heavy-bottomed pot. The mixture will start out as an opaque white liquid.

Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, The mixture will begin to "booger up" into clumps. You'll probably think you did something wrong. You didn't. Continue stirring.

The mixture will continue to clump together, almost into a loose dough, and begin to turn translucent. Keep your life depends on it.

Once the mixture becomes evenly and completely transparent/translucent, thick and goopy, and no longer sticks to the pan, it's done. Rest your stirring arm.

Moisten the inside of an square glass dish (I use my 8x8" baking dish typically reserved for brownies). Pour in this mochi goop and smooth out the top with a moistened silicone spatula. As the mixture cools, it will turn white and opaque again.

Once cooled to room temperature, chill the kuzumochi in the refrigerator until completely cold, at least 1-2 hours. Slip it out of the container, then cut into cubes.

Serve the kuzumochi drizzled with the kuromitsu and plenty of kinako. The kuzumochi itself is pretty bland, so feel free to try various toppings (honey? chocolate syrup? sweetened condensed milk? dulce de leche?) in lieu of the kinako and kuromitsu. Here, I've used agave nectar, which keeps this entire dish vegan!

**To make your own kuromitsu, combine 1/4 cup water, 2/3 cup brown sugar and 1 Tbsp dark corn syrup in a small saucepan. Heat to dissolve the sugar, stir well, then remove from heat and let cool. 

1 comment:

  1. I had mochi for the first time a couple of months ago and it was so good. I'll try this recipe at home.