Sakura mochi is a Japanese dessert that is pink, just like the sakura (cherry blossom flowers) and is made of sweet glutinous rice and filled with a sweet red bean paste. It is wrapped in a pickled sakura leaf which is edible. Traditionally, this dessert is enjoyed during Hinamatsuri (Japanese Girls' Day) to celebrate the beginning of spring, as well as to wish good luck and good health for all of the little girls in the family.
The recipe for sakura mochi requires three major steps: 1) making the filling of koshian (sweet red bean paste), 2) making the sweet glutinous mochi (rice cake) and 3) making the pickled sakura leaf.
Two shortcuts can be used for making sakura mochi to minimize preparation time. First, the koshian filling can be purchased premade at most Japanese or Asian supermarkets. Second, pickled sakura leaf can also be purchased at most Japanese stores or even online.
Sakura mochi is best eaten on the same day it is prepared. However, it may be stored in the refrigerator for up to three days and warmed in the microwave prior to eating. It is best to wrap each individual mochi securely with plastic wrap and then store them in the refrigerator.
- 2 cups azuki beans (red beans)
- 1 1/3 cups sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 4 1/2 cups water
- 3 cups sweet rice (glutinous rice)
- 2 drops red food coloring
- 2/3 cups sugar
- Approximately 3 1/4 cups water (according to rice cooker instructions)
- Optional: 16 to 18 pickled young sakura leaves
- Pickled sakura leaves can be purchased at most Japanese supermarkets or online. If you are making this, do so at least 2 days in advance. A recipe for young pickled sakura leaves is available here. Young leaves can also be used decoratively without pickling.
- Make koshian filling. In a large bowl, soak azuki beans in water overnight. Rinse beans and drain.
- Transfer beans to a large pot, add water, bring to a boil.Turn down the heat to medium and simmer beans for about 10 minutes. Skim foam and any residue that floats to the top of the pot.
- Turn down the heat to low and simmer the azuki beans for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until softened. Stir beans occasionally to make sure that the beans don't stick to the bottom of the pan and burn.
- Most of the liquid should boil off, but the azuki beans will have a slightly watery texture. Don't worry if it looks too watery. As the koshian filling cools, this water will be absorbed into the beans, and you will end up with a thick, creamy filling.
- Add sugar and salt into the koshian mixture and stir constantly for about 5 minutes until the sugar is dissolved. Turn off heat. Koshian may be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or stored in freezer.
- Make sweet mochi rice cake. Wash rice until water runs clear and drain. Let drained rice stand for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, dissolve sugar in about 1 cup of water in microwave for 1 to 2 minutes and let cool.
- Add 2 drops of red food coloring to the sugar mixture. This will make the rice pink. Add the pink sugar mixture to the rice and fill the rice cooker with approximately 3 1/4 cups of water, but please heed the water guidelines according to the measurements of your rice cooker.
- Let the rice soak in the pink sugar mixture and water for 1 hour before cooking. Allowing the rice to soak in the water will help to ensure that the cooked rice grains are soft and not hard in the center. If available, use the setting on your rice cooker for "glutinous or sweet rice".
- After the rice cooks, don't open the rice cooker and let the rice steam for 30 minutes. Gently smash the cooked glutinous rice with a shamoji (rice paddle) or spatula. Allow the cooked rice to cool so that it is warm. Tip: It's easier to work with mochi if it is warm because it's pliable.
- Assemble the sakura mochi. Use a piece of saran wrap large enough to generously cover the palm of your hand so that the mochi doesn't stick to your hand. Take about 2 to 3 tablespoons of mochi and spread on your palm in an oblong shape about 2 1/2 inches long. Be careful not to spread the mochi too thin because then your koshian filling will break through the mochi when you are wrapping it.
- Place a round 1 to 2 teaspoon scoop of koshian filling near the bottom center of your oblong mochi and then fold over the top half of the oblong and seal it by pressing the ends of the glutinous mochi closed. Repeat.