Mugwort rice cake/ 草もち
At 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)
- 3g of dry powdered mugwort grass available in flour section of Japanese market
- 1 tablespoon of water
- 200g of rice flour, I recommend Joshinko available in flour section of Japanese market
- 160ml of warm water
- 40g of ultra fine baker’s sugar
- Make balls with azuki bean paste-about 20g each. Set aside.
- In a medium bowl, sift mugwart with coarse sifter then add the 1 tablespoon of water. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, put Joshinko and add warm water little by little while you knead; about 5 minutes.
- 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.
- 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.
- Wet your hands once in a while to knead the dough. Add sugar 1/3 at a time.
- 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 does
- Roll about 30g of dough to1/8 inch thickness then cut out with round 3-1/2 inch cookie cutter (I used a glass).
- 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.
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!