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Sunday, June 4

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Dessert Sat Feb 27 2010

Leaf-Wrapped Japanese Sweets Galore @ Mitsuwa

We were lucky to be at Mitsuwa earlier today. In preparation for the Hina Matsuri (girls' festival) on March 3rd, Mitsuwa had a large variety of Japanese sweet rice-based desserts for sale. The market does have a constant supply of many mochi (sweet rice cakes), but the selection today was much better, and they did not appear to have sat in the freezer for too long, as many of the usual selection unfortunately are. We picked up a couple of things--kashiwa mochi, sakura mochi and goma dango (small, ball-shaped rice cakes on a stick, with black sesame glaze).

Kashiwa & Sakura Mochi

Kashiwa mochi is a smooth sweet rice cake wrapped in a (sometimes salt-cured, other times fresh) oak leaf. Inside the cake is red bean paste. The ones we picked up have red bean paste with miso, which adds a nice savory dimension. It's a bit funny that the market brought kashiwa mochi for the girls' festival, because it's traditionally associated with the boy's festival, which is on May 5th, but hey, I'm certainly not complaining. Unlike sakura mochi, which features an edible leaf, the oak leaf wrapper of kashiwa mochi is usually not eaten. I'm not sure why this is--perhaps the oak leaves are a bit tough to eat.

Salt-cured, tender cherry leaves envelope the faintly pink-hued sakura mochi. I wish I could describe what the cherry leaves taste and smell like--I just can't think of anything else that has similar flavor/aroma. "Floral and slightly holy-basil like" is the best I can do. The species of cherry leaf used for sakura mochi, called Oshima zakura, is renowned for this distinct fragrance, much stronger than the common cherry leaves, which do have the same, wonderful smell, though significantly fainter. For me, this aroma of the cherry leaf is what makes the sakura mochi worthwhile, so I was delighted to see that the ones at Mitsuwa used the real leaves. (Some manufacturers use fake, plastic leaves to cut the cost down, and instead add the cherry leaf flavor to the mochi itself--a sad result of technological advancement!) Like the kashiwa mochi (and countless other types of mochi), sakura mochi is stuffed with sweet red bean paste.

Mitsuwa's mochi galore goes on until tomorrow (Sunday, February 28th). Get the cake while they last! A few words of caution: pick up only what you can eat on the same day. The sweet rice hardens as time passes. You could revive it by briefly microwaving or steaming it, but mochi really is best eaten fresh. Don't refrigerate it, either. It'll get dry and hard. Oh, and don't forget your green tea--mochi tastes a hundred times better with strongly brewed green tea, at least in my book.

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Cinnamon / February 28, 2010 12:13 AM

I'm headed there on Sunday. Thanks for this timely post.

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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

The State of Food Writing

By Brandy Gonsoulin

In 2009, food blogging, social media and Yelp were gaining popularity, and America's revered gastronomic magazine Gourmet shuttered after 68 years in business. Former Cook's Illustrated editor-in-chief Chris Kimball followed with an editorial, stating that "The shuttering of Gourmet reminds...
Read this feature »

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