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28
August
2005

My First Wagashi

Heart wagashi

It seems like the Japanese are content to keep the art of wagashi (Japanese confections) within Japan. I have had a difficult time finding any classes or books on the subject available in English, and my endless Google searches turn up very little. Still determined to learn how to make wagashi, Andrew and I headed to the Japanese grocery store for inspiration. We found rice flour and a bag of red bean paste, two classic Japanese ingredients. Mixing rice flour with water will create a dumpling, which we could fill with the bean paste and create a very simple wagashi called Daifuku.

As usual with Japanese products, the rice flour had picture instructions on the back showing how to use it.

Rice flour instructions

I asked the clerk to translate the accompanying text for me, just to make sure I understood it correctly. Asking a clerk to translate is one of my favorite parts of the Japanese shopping experience. They are always so nice and willing to help, but their English isn’t perfect so they use a variety of words they do know to help describe what is written on the package. In this case, the clerk said, “Pour flour in bowl. Add splashes of water and mix until the consistency of your ear,” and then she proceeded to pull on the lobe of her ear. I’m not sure if the package actually equates the consistency of the dough to an ear lobe, but in any case I got the point. With her help and the great pictures on the package, we were able to make the dumplings correctly at home.

Andrew kneaded the dough, and we set out to experiment with shapes. I used my Western cookie cutters to make hearts, and we rolled the rest into traditional ball shapes. Once cooked, we took a pass at the art of plating before digging in. I went the “Pastry Chef” route and opted for a balanced presentation of wagashi and sesame paste, while Andrew went for the snowman effect.

Plated wagashi

Wagashi snowman

Plating our Japanese creations was more fun than actually eating it. While the Daifuku were satisfactory, it was nothing I would run to the store to buy. Our dough wasn’t soft like professionally made Daifuku, and we didn’t fill it with enough bean paste.

Attempting my first wagashi has taught me that even though it may be technically easy to make, it is very difficult to do it well. I think we just need more practice, although they say it takes at least 10 years to become a wagashi expert. In the meantime, I’ll rely on Minamoto Kitchoan to keep me well stocked with the real thing.

P.S. Andrew and I are traveling to Japan in November, and I plan to spend a large amount of my time researching wagashi (I’m lucky Andrew is so patient with my obsession!) I would appreciate any recommendations for good bakeries, classes or books to read on the subject (in English.)

Daifuku instructions:

Slowly add 200 cc (ml) of water to one package of rice flour (approximately 2 cups of flour) and knead to form dough.

Wagashi dough

Roll the dough out about 1/8″ thick, and cut into 3-inch circles (size may vary depending on your preference.) Top one circle of dough with a teaspoon of red bean paste, and top with another dough circle, pinching the edges together to seal in the paste.

Wagashi filling

You can then roll the dough to form a ball or use a cookie cutter to shape the edges. Cook the Daifuku in a pot of boiling water and remove once they begin to float. Immediately run the daifuku under cold water and once cool, roll in reserved rice flour for easier handling.

Sunrise Mart
4 Stuyvesant St (the shop is on the second floor of a building just off the corner of 9th street and 3rd avenue)
6 subway to Astor Place
New York, NY, 10003
(212) 598-3040



33 COMMENTS SO FAR...

Robyn says on August 29th, 2005 at 1:53 am:

Oo, I love daifuku (I’m sure I’d eat up all of the ones you made, heehee) but I’ve never made it. Now I might have to try it, although that would result in me eating lots of daifuku.

Kate B. says on August 29th, 2005 at 6:00 am:

KELLI! THAT’S IT!!! You need to open you own WAGASHI STORE IN NY!!!!! I said it first! Remember me when you’re famous!!!!!!!!!!! :) :) :) :) :)

Karen says on August 29th, 2005 at 8:24 am:

Good luck with your searches! I’ve been trying to find English books about how to make wagashi for a while now and have yet to find one. All the Japanese bookstores in the city have them in Japanese but nothing in English. If you go to Kinokuniya (two doors down from Minamoto Kitchoan) and check out a few of their English cookbooks, there may be one or two mochi recipes in the back. The one that I have, “Cafe Japan” by Emi Kazuko, has I think one recipe for either daifuku or mochi somewhere in there.

Becky says on August 29th, 2005 at 10:32 am:

Is Daifuku the same as Mochi? I have a mochi cookbook that was given to me when I was living in Hawaii. I have never used it or even looked through it really. I’ll look at it tonight and see if it has anything helpful.

Kate B. says on August 29th, 2005 at 11:02 am:

Mochi, gochi, rochi, gnochi :p

Kristin says on August 29th, 2005 at 11:30 am:

The hearts look fun for Valentine’s day and the three flour balls look like the start of a snowman. I say you can make these fun for any holiday! Good work.

Mariko says on August 29th, 2005 at 1:29 pm:

I have tried making wagashi before. There are definitely some tricks to it that I haven’t figured out! One helpful book is Hawaii’s Best Mochi Recipes (ISBN 1-56647-336-5) by Jean Watanabe Hee. I got it on ebay. A lot of the recipes are not traditional, but there are a couple in there, and the book gives you a good feel for the basics. GOOD LUCK! I LOVE LOVE LOVE manju.

Clarice Park says on August 29th, 2005 at 2:11 pm:

Growing up, I used to call them red bean balls for lack of a better word. It’s good to know that what I’ve been eating and loving is called something more befitting to its taste! And I’m glad that Andrew is doing his share of the baking, too. I still haven’t forgotten his Kraft Cheese sandwiches on white – sans mayo, meat, and everything else :)

Kelli says on August 29th, 2005 at 3:25 pm:

Hi Everyone — Thank you for the book recommendations. I will investigate them immediately!

Karen — Thanks for the recommendation for Kinokuniya. They are a great bookstore, but surprisingly have very little on Wagashi. I found 2 books that talked about seasonal flavors, but no recipes. I have also been to the book store on 41st by Bryant Park (maybe the name of it is Book Off??) and looked through amazing Japanese cookbooks. I can see the wagashi in pictures, but can’t read a single thing! I feel like it’s a secret code that I need to break. If only I could read Japanese.

Becky — I believe Mochi refers to the rice cake around the filling, so in that way it is similar.

Kate — I would LOVE to have a wagashi place. I better get started on the decade long training :)

Clarice — I would still call them red bean balls, it’s so easy to remember! Yes, Andrew is quite skilled at sandwiches. I see it’s a talent he’s had since youth!

Carrie says on August 29th, 2005 at 11:39 pm:

Hi Kelli,
If you are ever in southern California around Christmas/Hanukah(sp?)/ Kwanza, I would be ever so happy to teach you how to make the mochi you so carefully tried to make yourself. My parents have TWO mochi machines, which take washed mochi rice and water and creates (for lack of a better visual picture) a breakdancing Shmoo (remember that white lump of a cartoon character, Shmoo?) and we all get around the table as my Dad pelts us with lava-hot balls of mochi and we coax them into little pancakes, press balls of “ong” (just going with the phonetics here, for all those Japanophiles out there) into the center, and, like a hobo bag, pinch the edges together to made perfectly cute, powdery mochi. Very fun. Very tasty. And Andrew is welcome, too.

Karen says on August 30th, 2005 at 8:15 am:

Kelli, I’ve never actually searched for cook books at Book Off even though I’ve been there many times! May I suggest trying Asahiya as well? It’s on 45th Street between 5th & Madison Aves. They also have many beautiful cookbooks on wagashi but alas, are in Japanese only. You can see if they may have anything in their (tiny) English cookbook section. I am trying to remember any other bookstores that may help. As Andrew can attest to, I am a big Japanophile. :-)

carin says on August 30th, 2005 at 12:01 pm:

Hi, I just dropped by here, just wanted to say that I really like how you show your both platings. Serious vs humor. Hilarious!

Kelli says on August 30th, 2005 at 9:28 pm:

Hi Carrie– Thanks for the generous offer. I never knew there was such a thing as a Mochi machine! How fun.

Hi Karen– We’ll have to team up one of these days and hit up all the bookstores together. I think I’m a Japanophile too. And a Francophile. And an Anglophile. I think I love everything international :)

Hi Carin– Yes, we have fun. I’m glad someone else finds it entertaining too!

herschel monkey says on August 30th, 2005 at 9:42 pm:

mommy makes mochi, but her method is physically taxing.
mochiko and hot water are mixed together (to about the consistency you showed in your photo), then steamed. after steaming, the mixture is put into a mortar and pounded with a pestle. this creates the smooth texture of the mochi. wrap about a tablespoon of the dough around a teaspoon of red bean paste (straight from the can) and pinch closed. dust with more mochiko.

Jessica "Su Good Eats" says on August 31st, 2005 at 1:15 pm:

Hi Kelli, I’ve made mochi (aka daifuku) at home with success. A basic dough recipe is 3 cups glutinous (not regular) rice flour, 2 cups water and 1 cup sugar. I mix it all up (beating it makes the dough chewier), then steam it in a pot for about half an hour, or until the dough is firm and springy. While the dough’s hot, I pat it in a large pan dusted with rice flour or cornstarch. That way, no rolling is required. When the dough’s cool, run a knife or pizza cutter through to cut into little squares. Fill it, then seal the edges with the sticky ends of the dough. To maximize the filling to dough ratio, don’t fold the dough over. Just stretch and pinch the edges. Roll in rice flour to get it round.

When I helped out at my cousin’s bakery, he steamed the dough without sugar. When it was hot, he beat in the sugar, which makes the dough chewy. When I tried that at home, the sugar separated from the dough. Either I needed a better mixer, or I’ll continue adding the sugar in the beginning.

I actually think About.com has a good section on mochi! Googling “mochi” instead of “wagashi” may yield better results.

keiko says on September 1st, 2005 at 12:17 am:

Kelli, I’ve never made Daifuku myself. I think you did a great job ;)

LAURIE says on September 4th, 2005 at 1:04 am:

I am truly at a loss for words! It sounds like you will be very busy in Japan. Have you considered dipping the Snowman in a chocolate glaze? Just kidding, (I think!) Not only have I never made Daifuku or anything even close to it, but I’ve never even heard of it. This site is truly educational. I’ll be interested to see what you learn on your trip to Japan, so I’ll pop in and out of your site to see what’s new! I can’t help but wonder if my earlobe is the right consistency? Forge ahead…I have lots to learn from you!

Cynthia says on November 5th, 2005 at 10:30 pm:

I made the anko daifuku recipe from about.com today. It turns out way too soft and sticky. You must add more glutinous rice flour to make it work better. I will try Jessica’s recipe next time.

Kushi dango is much easier to make than daifuku. You mix glutinous rice flour with warm water until it feels like your earlobes, roll into balls and boil until they float. Then immediately immerse in cold or ice water. Once they are cool and dry, spear 3-4 on a bamboo kabob stick. Once you have a plate/pan full of white ball sticks, cover with anko bean frosting! Oishi!

I started off making the about.com kushi dango recipe, but it required a lot of modification (more than twice the amount of rice flour).

KATHY DIEWALD says on December 11th, 2005 at 6:41 pm:

WE LIVE BY A JAPANESE MARKET CALLED MARUKAI, THEY FEATURE JAPANESE AND HAWAIIAN GROCERIES. WE ALSO LIVE BY LITTLE SIAGON, ALTHOUGH THEY CATER TO MANY ASIAN CULTURES, THE MOCHI ARE TWO FOR $1.25. THE JAPANESE MARKETS ARE MUCH MORE EXPENSIVE. I HAVE PURCHASED ALL THE INGREDIENTS NECESSARY TO MAKE THESE DELIGHTFUL TREATS AND NEVER HAVE HAD THE NERVE TO ATTEMP TO MAKE THEM. ACTUALLY, YOUR WEBSITE HAS FINALLY GIVEN ME THE COURAGE TO TRY TO PREPARE THEM. HOW LONG IS THE SHELF LIFE OF THE GLUTTONOUS RICE FLOUR? I HAVE HAD MINE FOR SOME TIME NOW. AT FIFTY CENTS A BAG AT THE LITTLE SIAGON MARKETS, I PROBABLY SHOULD GO BUY IT AGAIN! BY THE WAY, WE LIVE IN COSTA MESA, CALIFORNIA. IT IS ABOUT AN HOURS DRIVE SOUTH OF HOLLYWOOD, NEAR THE OCEAN OR NEWPORT BEACH, CALIFORNIA. BY THE WAY, OUR YOUNGEST SON IS STATIONED IN JAPAN. HE IS SERVING IN THE US NAVY AND WILL BE THERE, NEAR TOKYO, FOR ANOTHER YEAR AND A HALF. THANKS FOR THE INFO ON MAKING WHAT LOOKS LIKE MOCHI. THE INTERNET IS A GREAT SOURCE FOR THESE RECIPES. KATHY DIEWALD

Lori says on January 28th, 2006 at 8:41 pm:

Here is a recipe that I made last week-end for Dorayaki which is Japanese Sweet Bean Paste Sanwiches. They are so cute and so tasty!

1/2 cup sugar, 3 eggs, 1 tbsp honey, 1 tbsp mirin, 1 1/3 cups sifted flour, 1/2 tsp baking soda, 1 1/2 water, 1 cup sweet bean paste

Instructions: Combine the sugar, eggs, honey & mirin in a mixing bowl; blend well. Mix in the flour, then the baking soda and water. Set aside for 30 mins. Place a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Pour in a 3-inch circle of batter, spreading it out as thinly as possible. Cook for 20 seconds, until small bubbles appear on the surface. Flip the crepe with a spatula and cook for 15 seconds, until golden brown. Let cool, then spread the bean paste on half of the crepe, then top with the remaining crepe. Serves 6 to 8.
(I found that I had to add alot more water than the recipe called for to get the right consistency, thinner than pancake batter) These are ohhh so good, I also use Nutella instead of bean paste in the middle. Enjoy!

Kelli says on February 1st, 2006 at 10:26 pm:

Thank you for the recipe! I’m so excited to see a Japanese sweet described in English. I’ve actually never heard of mirin — do you know a good place to find it?

Lovescool - For the Love of Dessert » Panya says on April 9th, 2006 at 7:30 pm:

[...] I often shop at the Sunrise Mart, a Japanese grocery store in Astor Place. While browsing their shelves I came across several different cookies, cakes and buns from a Japanese bakery named Panya. I looked up the address for Panya online and realized it was right next to the Sunrise Mart, where I found the products in the first place. I went back to the area and looked for the bakery, but couldn’t find it. I gave up and called a few friends for better directions. They all said the same thing, “It’s next to the restaurant Around the Clock, just below the Sunrise Mart.” I went a second and third time and STILL couldn’t find it. I felt ridiculous and believed that it didn’t really exist. I told my friend Karen about my trouble finding Panya and she was kind enough to send me this picture (just as posted, I didn’t edit it). If I can’t find it now I don’t deserve to get my cookies! I hope this picture helps all of you find Panya someday too. [...]

PEPE says on January 20th, 2007 at 10:53 am:

ok i like it

in need says on April 1st, 2007 at 4:52 pm:

i tried to cook the Daifuku in the boiling water but they just fell apart im now confused how am i supposed to cook them and in another recipe for Daifuku it doesn’t tell you to cook them

Neko says on April 17th, 2007 at 9:44 pm:

@Kelli: Mirin is Japanese rice wine used for cooking with only 1% alcohol content
*yay for Japanophiles ^_^
I’d really like to make daifuku on my own and they’re usually really expensive. I haven’t come across any cookbooks that had any recipes for wagashi.If you’ve any other successful recipes, please email me: feydragon@gmail.com

Anonymous says on June 16th, 2007 at 5:58 pm:

I’ve done a little researching and it seems a lot of rice flour packages in Japan that has recipes for mochi and daifuku really do use the softness of the earlobe as a reference of likeness to the texture. Just a note.

Michelle says on September 24th, 2007 at 4:02 pm:

Ummz… When the girl at the store pulled on her ear, she meant that you should knead the dough until it feels like your ear lobe ~

Frankie says on November 13th, 2007 at 3:43 pm:

Hi! I tried dango for the first time about a week ago and LOVED it. I went online to find some recipe’s and had little success. My dango weren’t turning out perfect, like the ones from the Japanese grocery store. I found your page and took the suggestion of using the morter and pestle and voila!!!! It was perfect, just like the store bought ones (though my sauce needed a little work). The texture though, was just heaven (soft but not too sticky). The recipe: about 1 1/3 cup mochiko to 1 cup warm water. Kneed, then transfer to morter and beat with pestle until your arm is going to fall off. Then boil until they float to the surface and run under cold water. Transfer to mochi floured surface and let cool. Skewer, pour sauce of choice over and enjoy. I liked mine cold, so i covered them and put them in the fridge for a while. Hope this helps!

Memmorium says on April 11th, 2008 at 9:48 am:

Good idea!
P.S. A U realy girl?

mypicst says on April 12th, 2008 at 7:14 am:

my pics

Alejandra Metraz says on May 20th, 2008 at 9:23 pm:

Thanks for the recipe!!

Patto says on January 11th, 2010 at 10:36 am:

I just returned from Japan with some GREAT wagashi books and even great melon pan recipes…

I will be translating and posting online.

Also the earlobe consistency is accurate on the package – the cookie cutter shapes are an interesting American touch…

Patto

pia says on June 4th, 2010 at 5:19 am:

i also looking for wagashi recipe but it is very hard to find.
hope i could find english wagashi cook book.

thanks for sharing



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