Warabimochi : The Japanese Summer sweet
With the onset of summer season, a music-like singing “waaraabii mochii” is heard outside for many days and I wondered if I heard exactly the same word itself. Often heard during late evenings, I couldn’t make sense of what it meant or what was going on outside. I think I heard the same music last year also, but it remained unnoticed as I was unfamiliar with the Japanese words and things. Later, I confirmed that it was ‘Warabimochi’ itself and there was a small truck selling warabimochi (unfortunately, I couldn’t take any picture of it at all). I was taken by surprise when I found Warabimochi sold in this manner. I experienced this kind of marketing in Japan for the first time. Except last winter, when I saw kerosene being sold in trucks, but it had a much different way of announcement and drawing customers.
Photo: Fox キヨ on Flickr
Summer and warabimochi
Warabimochi is a very popular summer sweet in Japan. Even though it is available in all parts of Japan, the Kansai region is famous for this sweet item. I have tasted warabimochi from the supermarkets last summer, which were transparent, round shaped, sticky, small balls dipped in the slightly sweet, toasted Soybean flour called ‘Kinako’. Recently, I ate warabimochi as dessert from a restaurant with brown sugar syrup poured on it. The two tastes were different, seems like they were made from different ingredients. ‘Warabimochi’ seen in all supermarkets are mostly of cheaper rates while those at the bakeries and restaurants are costlier and comparatively more delicious.
Photo: Yuichi Sakuraba on Flickr
Variations of warabimochi
The actual warabimochi is made from the starch of the warabi plant. Warabi is the bracken, which is actually a wild plant. The powder made from the root of this plant is used to make warabimochi. Since warabi starch is costly, some shops uses potato starch or corn starch to make this sweet. They are available in various colours and shapes. This jelly like sweet is transparent and sticks with each other. It is usually ate dipped in Kinako(Soybean powder) or sugar syrup. Eventhough warabimochi is different from the Mochi (rice cake), some similarity in the texture could be felt as it is sticky in nature. The beautiful transparent warabimochi in packets seen at the shops during the summer season will never let you go without taking one.
Make warabimochi at home
My friend told me that we can make it at home very easily. It could be made within 20 minutes with minimal readily available ingredients. All you need is the warabi powder (or you can use the potato starch instead), sugar, water, and salt.
Bracken flour (Warabi), Cornstarch (katakuriko) : 50grams
Powdered Sugar : 2 tsp
Mix well the starch powder, sugar and a pinch of salt. Add water into it little by little and mix it. Drain out the mixture without any lumps. Then, heat the drained mixture at a medium heat. Keep stirring well till it become thick and translucent. Turn off the flame and mix well for some more seconds. Allow the mixture to cool down. For that, take the mixture in a spoon and put it in a bowl of ice water. Take it out and put it in the powder containing Soybean flour, some sugar and a pinch of salt. Cut it into small pieces and enjoy after cooling it in the refrigerator.
Packets with Warabimochi ingredients are available in the supermarkets. It may be also used in a similar manner to make Warabimochi at home. Instructions are given at the back side of the packet also. Since warabimochi is a less sweet, fat free, low calorie sweet, it is of course healthy too. Try making warabimochi in the summer season and enjoy the taste of this home made delicious sweet. Enjoy your summer season in Japan!