Blog, Spring Food

Zunda Botamochi for Shunbun (Spring Equinox)

The bi-annual days of the vernal equinox are upon us once more. You can see the signs of life awakening from their winter sleep.
In Japan it is a Buddhist festival known as higan. In the spring it is known as haru no higan . To celebrate I always make Botamochi. This is a traditional confectionery made of sweet mochi rice pounded and shaped with a red bean centre . It is traditional to take these with flowers and incense to the graves of ancestors at this time. In the spring the sweets are called Botamochi named after the tree peony botan . In the fall the same sweets are called ohagi named after the clover bush hagi.

This year I wanted to make something that represented the bright green shoots and buds of spring. When I received some early broad beans in my organic vegetable box I had an idea to use them for not only the colour but that fresh taste of spring.

Broad beans or fava beans are called sora-mamé
ソラマメ ( ) or “sky beans” in Japan. They are called sky beans as the bean pod’s point upwards toward the sky when they are growing. Not only tasty but packed with protein and vitamin A.

The word “Zunda (ずんだ)” means the green paste as a result of hitting or mashing. Zunda is often made with edamame and is the boiled beans mashed with sugar and a specialty of Sendai City in Miyagi prefecture. Using the same method as when using edamame I utilised what I had to made Spring Green Zunda Botamochi. The result is pounded mochi rice with a sweet bean paste filling and sweet sora mame paste on the outside. I served them with a pink sakura soy latte. If you want to know how to make the latte just search in my recipes.

How I made Zunda Botamochi

1/2 a rice cooker cup of sweet mochi rice & 1/2 Japanese rice. Wash the rice thoroughly until the water runs clear, drain in a sieve and leave to air for ten minutes, after this time add this to your rice cooker or pan with 2 rice cooker cups of water. (The cup is equal to 180ml) Leave the rice to soak while you make your Zunda.

The beans first need to be taken out of their original outer long pod. You first need to blanch them in a pan of boiling water and boil for two minutes.

After this time drain and drop the beans into ice water to stop them over cooking.

Now here’s the magic. You need to remove the out skin of the bean this is known as double podding. When you do a vibrant green bean will emerge from the dull skin. Now that’s the colour of spring!

Next you need to mash the beans I do this using my suribachi (Japanese mortar and pestle).

Then add two tablespoon of granulated sugar. Grind this all into the bean mixture really well. Then place in the fridge to firm up.

Put your rice on cook.

When the rice is done you will also need some sweet bean paste.
Remove the Zunda from the fridge.

Start to mash your rice it will become sticky due to the sweet mochi rice we used. You want to be able to see some of the grains so don’t mash too much.

Then scoop out about a tablespoon of rice and with wet hands roll it into a ball then flatten it. Roll a small ball of sweet bean paste and put this in the middle of the rice, then fold the rice over and make it into a ball shape again.

Take some of your Zunda and start to form it around the mochi rice ball you can do this with a piece of plastic wrap if you wish.

Keep doing this until you have made the desired amount.

Maybe finish by decorating them with a pickled preserved salted Sakura flower.

If you like you can also make some of the more traditional Ohagi by rolling the rice balls in kinako and ground black sesame.

If you have some Zunda left why not make Zunda dango mochi which is a treat you will see often in Sendai using edamame.

We can now look forward to longer days and the chill of winter turns into warmer weather. Who is ready for Spring?