Sakura Mochi (桜餅) is a type of wagashi (Japanese confectionery) made of sweet pink mochi (sweet rice or sometimes called glutinous rice). It’s usually filled with sweet red bean paste and wrapped in a salty pickled cherry leaf.
Sakura means cherry blossoms in Japanese and both flower and leaves are used in Japanese cooking, especially with making sweets. Sakura mochi is usually eaten on Girl’s Day (known as Hinamatsuri) on March 3rd and enjoyed throughout the spring season in Japan.
Now you might wonder why I’m sharing this in September? Well, large numbers of Just One Cookbook readers actually live in the Southern Hemisphere and they are in the middle of spring! Yes, I am finally share a “seasonal” recipe just for the other hemisphere. I’m thinking of you guys!
I really appreciate readers from Australasia and other parts of the Southern Hemisphere putting up with my summer recipes in the middle of your winter. To be honest, I was actually looking for the sakura leaves back in spring for this recipe but couldn’t find them. Then I happened to find a vacuumed package of Sakura leaves at the local Japanese grocery store right before our summer break started. So I waited and waited to post this recipe till Southern Hemisphere hits spring…and now here we are!
The style of Sakura Mochi in Japan actually differs by region. Generally, the east of Japan or Kanto region (Tokyo area) uses shiratamako (sweet rice/glutinous rice flour 白玉粉) as the main ingredient for mochi. It resembles a mini pancake rolled up. The west of Japan or Kansai region (Osaka, Kyoto etc) uses domyojiko (coarsely broken sweet rice/glutinous rice 道明寺粉) and you can actually see grains of sweet rice, like the one I shared for this recipe. Domyojiko is cooked sweet rice that is dried and broken up to smaller pieces. It’s available in Japanese supermarkets but not in Asian grocery stores.
For this recipe, I actually used regular sweet rice and cooked from scratch. Then I broke the grains into smaller bits and pieces by pounding the sweet rice. If you could find domyojiko, go ahead and use it instead since it’ll save you a bit of work.
Now please remember that Japanese short-grain sweet rice/glutinous rice is NOT same as Thai/Chinese long-grain glutinous rice. Mochi made of long-grain glutinous rice is more starchy and it’s not the same as Japanese mochi texture (I wouldn’t recommend substituting Japanese glutinous rice with Thai/Chinese variety).
Sometimes you might see a cherry blossom on top of the Sakura Mochi. They are pickled just like pickled cherry leaves. Unfortunately I didn’t have the luck to find them this season so I omitted it. If you could find them, soak in water to remove the brine and salt, just like how I did it for the leaves. Decorate the mochi with cherry blossom on top.
Sakura Mochi has a nice balance of the taste between the salty pickled leaves and sweet red bean paste. The texture of the chewy sweet glutinous rice with sweet anko filling is simply deletable. Mix in the aroma of cherry blossom and the experience is simply amazing! Make some green tea and enjoy the mochi with it. Happy Spring!
By the way, I’m partnering with Lunch-a-Porter to give away this beautiful lunch box set to two (2) Just One Cookbook readers! It’s a worldwide giveaway so anyone in the world can enter for a chance to win! Click here to enter and read more details.
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- Rinse the sweet rice and soak it for at least 1 hour to overnight.
- Soak the sakura leaves in water for 15 minutes to remove salt. Then dry the leaves with paper towel.
- Wet your hands and roll anko into 6 small balls between hands.
- Drain well and put the sweet rice in a large bowl.
- Add water and red food coloring and mix well (don’t add too much as the color of the mochi will be too pink. I think I added a little too much.).
- Cover with plastic wrap and microwave for 6 minutes. Mix once in between.
- Uncover the plastic wrap and mix. Then cover with kitchen towel for 5 minutes.
- Add sugar in the sweet rice and mix all together.
- Pound the sweet rice with pestle until sweet rice is very sticky (keep some rice shape). Divide the rice into 6 portions.
- On the prep surface, place a sheet of plastic wrap and spray a bit of water. Place ⅙ of sweet rice and spread into a rectangular shape. Make sure there is no void in the center area.
- Place an anko ball in the center and roll the sweet rice over it to cover anko.
- Tighten the plastic wrap and twist to make a nice oval shape.
- Lastly wrap with a sakura leaf. Leave it at room temperature for an hour or so till the mochi absorbs the flavors from the sakura leaf. Enjoy!