*This post has some romanised Japanese words to make this easier to read if you can’t read Japanese. And, furigana for beginners!
Welcome to Kiki and Koko: Let’s NihonGO!! Online in blog form, now with 99.9% of your daily dose of Japanese language and culture. We’re your guides, Kiki and Koko, here to provide you a little slice of Japan, or should we say, an orb? Everyone might not be able to travel to Japan very easily, but there is definitely a way to experience a little bit of Japanese culture from the comfort of your home, at a restaurant, or your local grocer, and that is through Japanese food! Of course, you won’t absorb special language and culture learning powers from this, but you’ll most likely have a fun time, and it’s an experience you can share with friends. Previously, we talked about inarizushi (いなり寿司), which is a fun, easy, versatile, and savoury snack to have for tea any day with your friends, and we urged you to try it because it’s amazing. This time, we’re talking about a similarly versatile snack, but this is a bit on the sweeter side. That’s right, we’re talking about another one of our favourite Japanese treats, daifuku mochi (大福餅)!!
What is mochi?| 餅とは何ですか？
In order to truly understand the magic of daifuku mochi (大福餅), we should explain mochi, (餅). So, mochi, (餅)— seen sometimes in hiragana as 「もち」—is what is known as a Japanese rice cake. When we say, ‘rice cake,’ this may not evoke the same image for everyone. In the West, people may think of a crispy biscuit of puffed rice, though, oddly, that is completely the opposite to mochi, (餅). Japanese rice cakes, as well as many other Southeast Asian rice cakes, are blobs of gooey wonder. It’s created with a very specific rice flour called, mochiko, (餅粉), glutinous rice flour or sticky rice flour, which is made from mochigome, (糯米). You may see mochiko, (餅粉), labelled in your local stores as ‘sweet rice flour,’ which isn’t actually inherently sweet. We’re not pushing any specific brands, of course, but you’ll usually see a blue star on the most common brand. Mochi, (餅) is a texture experience depending on the many forms in which it is created, but in all forms, one thing is certain: it’s gooey in a great way. There are some that have more moisture making for a stretchier feel or a slightly firmer block as well. The texture experience is something you definitely have to try for yourself, but it’s quite a treat. Perhaps you’ve eaten a squishy, stretchy Matzo ball before? In this recipe, it’s a very similar texture except that’s made from wheat flour. And, maybe if you enjoy Matzo balls, but can’t have gluten, mochi, (餅), might be the perfect alternative as it’s gluten free.
One other element of mochi, (餅), that is important to know, especially if you ever plan to create any on your own at home, is that… it’s sticky. Very, very sticky. It’s a fun and playful monster that will stick to every utensil and your hands if not for the one powdery hero: katakuriko, (片栗粉), otherwise known as potato starch. This is what gives it the powdery exterior that has almost a powdered doughnut-like look, coating the mochi, (餅), so that it doesn’t stick to your hands, utensils, or each other. So, if it’s store-bought mochi, (餅), then you shouldn’t have any worries about it sticking to your hands. It’s a fun treat as well, but mochi, (餅), is different to daifuku mochi (大福餅), because this is just a part of it making the actual ‘cake’ portion.
Though ‘cake’ is a bit of misnomer when it comes to the image it evokes, as maybe ‘dough’ might seem more accurate considering its consistency, But, ‘cake’ it’s the generally used translation, so for the sake of keeping things consistent linguistically, it’s just best to use the accepted translation… Though, it really does feel like a dough rather than a cake.
What is daifuku mochi?| 大福餅とは何ですか？
So, now that we’ve defined mochi, (餅), we can take a look at our specific favourite: daifuku mochi (大福餅). Whilst mochi, (餅), is simply a rice cake which can come in many shapes and sizes, daifuku mochi, (大福餅), is a rice cake with a delicious variety of fillings! Mochi, (餅), is the outer layer of this. Often times, daifuku mochi (大福餅), or simply daifuku, (大福), will be filled with anko, (餡こ), red bean paste, or red bean jam, which is made from adzuki/azuki (小豆), a type of sweet red bean. It’s sometimes soft and more pureed and other times, it’s course with more of a texture to it. In the sweeter version, it’s usually blended very finely with sugar that gives it a smooth jammy but dry texture.
The mochi, (餅), portion, just like when it is served alone, can be flavoured or coloured. When you see daifuku, (大福), filled with anko, (餡こ), it is usually either plain and uncoloured, pink, or green, in which case it’s usually flavoured with Maccha, (抹茶), green tea. There is also another anko, (餡こ), filled variety with a usually halved strawberry called: ichigodaifuku, (いちご大福), which is usually pink, but can be white or green. Though, if you’ve had daifuku, (大福), in the past, or you’ve seen it your Japanese travels physically or virtually, you might recall seeing pink or green fillings within the daifuku, (大福), in which case, you might wonder how anko, (餡こ), can become these colours? The answer may shock you! Or, maybe, not, we don’t know what shocks people these days, but hopefully, it’s interesting and useful~
When you see a filling that’s coloured anything but that bean-y red, but also says it’s filled with bean paste, it might actually be shiroan, (白あん), white bean paste, or white bean jam. Though, with time has evolved more colours, flavours beyond the traditional! In some cases, you’ll see orange, peach, yellow, purple, or even blue daifuku, (大福)!!
Maybe you’re not a big bean fan, or maybe you might find these traditional confections not sweet enough? There are so many varieties of daifuku, (大福), that are filled with so many different sweet items. We could write separate articles on all of them, but one of Kiki’s favourites that she thinks you simply couldn’t dislike—well, if you don’t enjoy sweet and squishy pillows of tasty goodness, then you may not—but never-the-less, it is mashumaro daifuku, (マシュマロ大福), marshmallow daifuku. Anything you thought about marshmallows, throw out the window, because this is a new experience like no other. It’s gooey, it’s squishy, it’s stretchy, it’s airy, and it’s jelly-filled. In the very centre of a traditional daifuku, (大福), there may be one red bean, but in the same spirit, there’s jelly filling usually matching the fruit inside. There’s everything from orange to peach, melon to strawberry, grape to blueberry, and even banana!
Daifuku,(大福), is the perfect snack that you can find at the local grocer or Japanese/’Asian’ market. It’s not too messy as long as you keep the powder in the tray, and you can share it with friends. Daifuku,(大福), is a great way to step into Japanese treats and experience something traditional or new and modern. But, do be careful to chew it well and take small bites as it’s very thick, but always worth the effort for that unique texture.
To wrap things up, we should mention that Daifuku,(大福), itself means ‘great fortune’ ‘good luck,’ and maybe coming across this article was great fortune for you. Perhaps you want to experience more Japanese culture, in which case, we hope you’ll browse the rest of our articles where you can learn how to write and speak Japanese at your own pace, and all for free! And, be sure to subscribe to The Electronic Mailing List of Tomorrow, today, found at the side or the bottom of the web page, to get updates on the latest articles, videos, podcasts, and more right to your inbox, so you don’t even have to check the day of the week to know when new content is headed your way. And, that’s pretty lucky, if you ask us. If you’d like to make us feel like the luckiest Japanese-teaching twins on the planet Earth and support the creation of more content, you can join us on Patreon, or leave a tip in the Tip Jar (coming soon, unless you see it on the menu, then… it’s already here~)
All in all, there are so many varieties of mochi, (餅), and daifuku mochi, (大福餅), but we hope that you feel enlightened on our favourites! We wish you daifuku,(大福), and hope you might enjoy some daifuku mochi, (大福餅), in future, to expand your cultural horizons. Maybe in future, we’ll give an instructional on how to make daifuku mochi, (大福餅) at home, but until then, we look forward to teaching you more Japanese language and culture!
Thank you so much for reading!