While patches of snow linger on the ground and wintery plum blossoms have yet to show their faces, I have been stalking my local wagashi shop, since the New Year, in anticipation of the first culinary signs of spring. We may be moving before Japan's peerless cherry blossoms make their fleeting appearance, but I am nonetheless determined to at least taste them. This week, the shop finally had what I've been looking for...sakura mochi.
|My local wagashi shop adds a special touch to their sakura mochi...a pink, pickled cherry blossom. Kawaii!|
Traditionally eaten on March third's Hinamatsuri, or Girls' Day, sakura mocha are made of sugar, glutinous rice flour, red bean paste, and a dash of red food coloring. The little package is then wrapped in a pickled sakura leaf. This perfect combination of lightly sweetened mochi and lightly sour leaf promises that spring truly is around the corner- even if the unheated hallways of my Japanese apartment are still the exact temperature as my refrigerator. Little TF is almost as enthusiastic in her enjoyment of sakura mochi, although whether it's because she likes the taste or the pink color, I haven't quite established.
In the Kanto area, sakura mochi is most commonly made in the Tokyo-style, as seen in my above photo. The slightly different Kansai-style sakura mochi hail from the Kyoto region, and are made with a much more lumpy rice batter. I usually see the Tokyo-style sakura mochi, but I've also spotted the Kansai-style at my local grocery store, as well!
When I dream of Japan, years from now, I will dream of Kappabashi...summer festivals...Miyajima...takoyaki...floating cherry blossoms...and sakura mochi.