Monday, September 26, 2011


Mugwort rice cake/ 草もち

DSC_1366At the ridge of a rice field, there are lots of mugwort (よもぎ) grass growing and my friend would pick them and take them home. The next day, she shared mugwort rice cake with me which her mother had made. I was totally jealous of her. How marvelous is it that weed-like plants transform into a deliciously sweet confection? I decided I want more! I plucked plenty of mugwart to take home to my mother but she dismissed me with just one glance at grass then told me that was a mugwort look-alike and not the real thing. This stuff will make you sick, she added. You’re joking, right? It was just like the ones that my friend picked a few days earlier though? I felt defeated, how can you argue with an adult who seems to know everything?  Not only I got the wrong grass but it was poisonous. That was a frightening thought to a young child. 

My grandmother on rare occasions took me to a woody hill side to pick some ostrich fern called zenmai. I don’t really like them but I loved to spend time with her. I didn’t put any effort at all into finding wild edible ferns because I already knew I suck at it, so, while she looked for them I played hard at exploring nature, digging, discovering and destroying things. She called me when her small bucket was full. Me and my clothes were all dirty from head to toe.

That was long ago in spring. Both my grandmother and mother have passed away now. I already forgave my mother for lying. That was real mugwort. She was bombarded with tasks and had to deny my request. Back in that era, you had to make everything from scratch. She simply did not have time to spoil me. Although she could have said she would make it later or some other time but that was not her style. She didn’t have “round about” in her wording. It’s OK mom, nobody’s perfect. Not even me.

Ingredients-Make about 12 rice cakes

  • 300g of Sweet Azuki bean paste. comes in can or refrigerated pouch (this is less expensive)DSC_1332
  • 3g of dry powdered mugwort grass available in flour section of Japanese market DSC_1329
  • 1 tablespoon of water
  • 200g of rice flour, I recommend Joshinko  available in flour section of Japanese marketDSC_1334
  • 160ml of warm water
  • 40g of ultra fine baker’s sugar
  1. Make balls with azuki bean paste-about 20g each. Set aside.DSC_1336
  2. In a medium bowl, sift mugwart with coarse sifter then add the 1 tablespoon of water. Set aside.DSC_1337
  3. In a large bowl, put Joshinko and add warm water little by little while you knead; about 5 minutes.
  4. Lay a clean dish towel on the steamer. Tear the dough into small pieces with your hands then put all on the top of towel. Loosely wrap the dough with the dishcloth. Cover and steam for 30 minutes.DSC_1341DSC_1344DSC_1345
  5. After you finish the steaming, grab the end of towel to transport dough to a bowl. Cool for a minute or so then start kneading while dough is still warm. You need lots of strength to do this task.DSC_1347
  6. Wet your hands once in a while to knead the dough. Add sugar 1/3 at a time.
  7. When sugar and dough are completely combined, start adding mugwort powder a little at a time. Add more water if the dough is too stiff or dry. It should feel about the same as your earlobe doesDSC_1353
  8. Roll about 30g of dough to1/8 inch thickness then cut out with round 3-1/2 inch cookie cutter (I used a glass).
  9. In the middle of round dough, put 1 azuki ball. Fold in half. Cover with plastic wrap or moist dish towel to prevent drying out while you make the rest of rice cakes.DSC_1357


My husband and my son traveled to Tokyo Kobe,Osaka, Ise, Nagoya and Kyoto after finishing volunteer work. They ate plenty and they were fed well and they visited many konbini, bakery and of course Mr. Donuts which is my son’s favorite sweet shop.!


My neighbor brought flowers from her garden to my husband on his birthday. She even sang Happy Birthday to him. She is awesome!



  1. とっても上品なよもぎ餅ですね!


  2. ちびかーちゃん、ありがとう!英語の言葉があるから、どこかにあるんじゃないでしょうか? ここでは見たことはないんですけど。

  3. Thanks for making this for us! It was delicious.

  4. Kurk, You're welcome! Too bad it was too dry the following day. I think I have to put more water in it. There is other method to make this rice cake. I will try that recipe next time.

  5. Those pictures of food from Japan are making my mouth water.

    I've never had mugwort, I don't think. It sounds like a Harry Potter ingredient. :)

    That's also a funny story about you picking the grass. Good memory.

  6. 誕生日なんですね!

  7. I couldn't help but eat a lot of these, even when they started to get dry. Great job on everything, especially the presentation.

  8. I love red bean paste and I always need more ways to make it. Looks so tasty. This is exactly what I want!! Will try this out soon. Thanks for sharing.

  9. Mariko, The reason you never had them is I didn't know mugwort powder available in store. When using fresh mugwort, you need to boil with plenty water with 1 teaspoon of baking soda then minced finely or dry in sun for few days then crush it to make powder form. See, take long time to prepare for the rice cake isn't it? Now I have instant powder, I will make them for you someday.

  10. mmm i love azuki beans...and those flowers are beautiful!