Red Bean Mochi is a sweet Japanese confection that has grown in popularity among many countries outside of Japan. With its supple rice cake layer that wraps around a bean paste with intense sweetness, this snack is one that will certainly remain in your memory once you try it!
In this article, we’ll sink our teeth into its origins and find out how to make it. Look forward to serving this sweet treat after following the recipe steps, presented to you after hours of research!
What is red bean mochi?
Red bean Mochi is a Japanese rice cake made from short-grain glutinous rice (‘mochigome’). The Japanese also refer to these rice cakes as ‘wagashi’, which translates to confection in Japanese, or as ‘daifuku’, which literally translates to ‘great luck’.
Traditional wagashi-making starts from soaking then steaming polished glutinous rice. After pounding the rice into a sticky paste, it is moulded into a ball and stuffed with different fillings. Sweetened red bean paste is one common filling. Another popular filling is white bean paste.
We can also find red bean mochi cakes and ice cream sold in some stores. Baked with mochiko (rice flour) and red bean paste, Chinese and Korean cookbooks reference the dessert as well, a nod to the cross-cultural histories of these countries. The cake has a chewy texture, unlike the smoothness of the daifuku.
The auspicious-sounding names explain why daifuku is usually dyed in pretty pale colours such as pink, yellow, or green, and are made specially to celebrate certain Japanese festivals. The tradition of eating wagashi came about 700 years ago in Japan.
It was originally used to worship the gods, then later divided into smaller pieces to distribute amongst worshippers. During the Heian period, the Japanese started eating it as part of the New Year festivities.
Take, for instance, the Sakura daifuku with a salted Sakura leaf wrapped around it. It has a lumpier texture compared to red bean mochi as some grains are left uncooked. The wagashi is eaten during the Hinamatsuri (Girl’s Day) festival and enjoyed throughout spring.
Another type of rice cake popular in Western Japan is warabi mochi. This dessert has a soft, jelly-like texture since it is made with plant starch. During summer, they eat it with brown sugar syrup or soybean flour. Unlike red bean mochi, the rice cake itself is tasteless.
The pounding of the rice flour is a highly revered skill in Japan, with masters in high demand, especially near New Year. There is also a wide variety of this confection, with different types for different festivities. With more people around the world that appreciate Japanese culture, daifuku has become less of a festive special and more of a tea-time favourite.
What is new and popular amongst ice-cream lovers right now is red bean mochi ice cream. Essentially still a round and soft ball, the inner filling is cold red bean ice cream. It is a cool treat for a hot day as you bite into the wagashi, to be rewarded with a freezing burst of sweet ice cream.
What does Red Bean Mochi taste like?
It tastes smooth, yet slightly gummy. It has a chewy texture. Once you have bitten through the outer layer, it rewards you with sugary, melt-in-your-mouth azuki (Japanese for red bean) bean paste. The overall sensation is a ball of sweet, slightly sticky confection.
How to eat Red Bean Mochi
As the Japanese confection is slightly sticky, we should cut it into thumb-sized pieces for easy chewing. When eaten alone, it is best served with green tea to help with swallowing.
We can also serve daifuku with red bean soup. A traditional Japanese dessert known as Zenzai, red bean soup is boiled fresh with red beans, sugar, and salt. Mochi is grilled to make it crispy and toasty, before being dunked in the warm soup.
Red bean mochi is sometimes also served as a topping in Japan for miso soup and udon soup. This flavourful combination allows you to enjoy both sweet and savoury in this way.
Another way to eat daifuku is to make rice crackers by toasting the sweet confection until it is dry and warm, serving with soy sauce.
One piece of red bean mochi the size of a baby’s thumb is about 60 calories. It consists of 96% carbohydrates.
However, please note that the calorie count differs according to the size and sugar content in each recipe.
While the first step of daifuku used to be pounding the rice, thankfully, modern convenience means you can buy sweet short-grained glutinous rice flour that has already been pounded to make red bean mochi.
The coarse-grained rice flour is known as Shiratamako and the fine-grained one is called Mochiko flour. If you have a Daiso outlet (Japanese store) in your area, you should also be able to find mochi rice flour, sometimes known as Daifukuko.
However, if you cannot find either, then substitute it with regular glutinous rice flour.
For the filling, dried azuki beans bought at the supermarket can make red bean paste. It is also possible to buy red bean paste from most supermarkets.
Homemade red bean paste tastes better though, as you can control the amount of saltiness and sweetness that goes into the paste.
While we focus on red bean mochi here, feel free to experiment with different fillings that you may like such green tea, peanut, taro and more. You can still use glutinous rice flour to create the exterior for wrapping around your preferred filling. In this article, we will not be making the paste.
However, if you’re interested to make your own homemade red bean paste, have a read of our detailed recipe. The paste can be made used not only to make Japanese daifuku but also Chinese snow skin mooncakes and pastries too.
Before attempting to make your first red bean mochi, here are some tips to heed.
- First, rice flour is very sticky and so when kneading or pounding the rice flour, make sure your hands are slightly wet. When you are trying to shape the dough, your hands must be dry and dusted with starch. But when you have stuffed the filling, brush the excess starch away to close the ball.
- Second, rolling out the dough rather than stretching it too much by hand is better. Try not to pull the flour when shaping it into a ball or you’ll create a sticky surface.
- Lastly, when you cook the rice flour, it should slowly fade to a more translucent cream colour, which shows it is well-cooked. The skin of the red bean mochi should appear thin and tender.
- Here’s one more tip, not for cooking but for easy washing up. Soak any tools used in water. That way, the rice flour will not stick to the surface and lessens your washing up!
How To Store
To store the dessert, put red bean mochi in an airtight container, and place it in a cool, dry place. Do not make it too cold or the rice will get hard. In this cool, dry state, it can last for about a month.
If you would like to store it longer in a fridge, then add sugar. The recommendation is to use 50-100 grams of sugar for 100 grams of cooked rice flour, to help the confection store longer and stay soft.
If placed in the freezer in a sealed container, the rice cakes can stay fresh for at least six months.
Red Bean Mochi Recipe (Daifuku)
- 1 cup mochiko flour
- ¾ cup sugar
- potato starch for dusting
- Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Spread potato starch in a large circle on the pan and set aside.
- Whisk the mochiko flour and about 300 ml of water together until it is smooth. Pour it through a mesh strainer into a saucepan. Then add sugar and mix.
- Cook the mixture over medium heat and stir constantly. It should come together into a mass after 5-7 minutes. Now you can cut the dough.
- Cut the dough into 20 even pieces. Then, roll each piece into a flat disk.
- You can now place your red bean filling in the middle of the piece. Evenly stretch the dough around the filling and pinch it at the top to shut it.
- Dust the ball with a bit of potato starch. When you are done, set the red bean mochi on the parchment sheet for serving.
- If you prefer to make your own flour from scratch, you can buy glutinous rice and steam it.
- Glutinous rice must be handled gently as it breaks easily.
- Then, you can use a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment to knead the rice at 3-minute intervals.
- Once it starts to look like dough, you can beat it with a flat attachment beater at 30 seconds intervals.
- Whether you create flour from scratch or buy it from the stores, use potato starch liberally to keep the rice flour from sticking to your tools and hands.
Calories have been calculated using an online calculator. Nutritional information offered on Honest Food Talks is for general information purposes and are only rough estimations.
Midnight Cooking Club made an excellent video recipe on how to make Azuki mochi. We recommend watching the video to have a better idea of how the whole process is completed.
Their recipe uses milk and icing powder sugar instead, which could be alternative ingredients to our recipe above. Moreover, they also steamed their glutinous rice mixture rather than cooking it over a stove.
Red bean mochi is a suitable dessert post-lunch or dinner. In the summer, it helps one to stay refreshed when eaten cold. With some hot soup, it is also a perfect light, sweet treat. Indeed, it is a versatile, all-weather dessert for those who crave sweets.
Now that you have learned how to make it, go and have a go at making this cute Japanese dessert! Share with us a picture of your Japanese daifuku by tagging us on Instagram @honestfoodtalks!