Saturday, March 24, 2012
Sakuramochi is named for the pale pink blossoms of the cherry tree, and like those blossoms is only around for a short time each spring.
In Japan, there are two regional variations on sakuramochi. Both types have a core of smooth koshian red bean paste and are wrapped in a brined cherry leaf, but the middle layer differs. In the Kanto region around Tokyo, the bean paste is rolled in a tiny pancake made from pink-tinted rice flour. In the Kansai region (which includes Kyoto), the bean paste is enveloped in a ball of mochi rice dough, often made from dōmyōji-ko a "chunky" glutinous rice flour that originated at Osaka's Dōmyōji Temple; the dōmyōji-ko gives the mochi the ruffled appearance of a cluster of breeze-tossed petals.
Our Seattle wagashi makers are hewing more closely to the Kansai style. Tokara (above) makes a classic sakuramochi, with meltingly smooth koshian encased in a chewy dōmyōji pillow and jacketed in a zingy, tender leaf. At Umai-do (below), there's a homier version, with the shop's own flavorful bean paste and smooth, elastic mochi made from more widely available mochiko glutinous rice flour rather than dōmyōji-ko: a new "Seattle" style?