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? 







Blog, Spring Food

Yatsuhashi for Midori no Hi みどりの日

Greenery Day (midori no hi) みどりの日 also known as Arbor Day on the 4th of May is part of a string of holidays and celebrations over a week long period in Japan called Golden Week.
On Greenery Day, it is customary to visit a garden or a tea room for a tea ceremony . It’s a great opportunity to try the best green tea and celebrate nature.
Around the time of Golden Week is Hachijuu Hachiya (八十八夜) and is one of the most important dates for Japanese farmers. It means eighty eight days (it depends where we look at it as it is also translated into eighty eight nights) after the start of the spring (risshun 立春). This is typically when the first crop of green tea is harvested, known as first flush (Ichibancha, 一番茶), the green tea harvested during this time is widely regarded as the tastiest of the year many claim that even a single cup of fresh Hachiju-Hachiya Shincha can promote health and longevity.
(the other two, nibancha and sanbancha occur in July and September).

If you have ever visited Kyoto you maybe familiar with a Japanese wagashi ( confection) mainly sold as an omiyage (souvenir) known as Yatsuhashi 八ツ橋 (八橋). It can come in two types baked hard like a senbei or soft known as Nama Yatsuhashi which is a soft mochi made from Joshinko (non-glutinous rice flour). The unbaked yatsuhashi is cut into a square shape after being rolled very thin, and folded in half diagonally to make a triangle shape, and filled with red bean paste inside. Unbaked yatsuhashi may also come in a variety of different flavours from cinnamon, matcha and Yuzu to even chocolate. It is pretty difficult to find this wagashi outside of Kyoto and I often buy it to bring home.

I have recently started selling a range of organic tea in my shop by a Japanese company called “Nodoka”. It is something pretty special a luxurious genmaicha tea powder. Where as before you may have tried genmaicha which is green tea with roasted rice in its tea leaf form, you can now get the nutritional benefits of 100% tea leaf by using the whole ground tea. As you can use it pretty much like matcha for not only making delicious lattes but also in baking, I decided to use it to celebrate greenery day and try making some yatsuhashi with it. They turned out so delicious.
Want to enjoy the taste of Kyoto in your home why not give them a try. You can purchase the Genmaicha from my shop or just substitute it for regular matcha. Obviously the taste will be different.
Gather your ingredients (you should be able to get these from an Asian grocery store or on line)

You will need:

30g Shiratamako (glutinous rice flour)

50g Joshinko (non glutinous rice flour)

60g of unrefined caster sugar

150g of tsubuan (chunky bean paste)

1 tablespoon of kinako (roasted soybean flour)

2 1/2 teaspoons of sifted genmaicha or matcha powder

65-70ml of water

You will also need : a microwaveable bowl, muslin cloth, steamer a piece of card cut into a 3×3 inch (8x8cm) square and a knife.


Add your Shiratamako to a microwaveable bowl and add 65ml of  water, whisk well until it’s nice and smooth with no lumps. Then add your sugar and Joshinko, mix until you get a thick smooth batter consistency adding more water if necessary.

Place some plastic wrap over the bowl and microwave for 3 minutes with a 600w microwave. Take out of the microwave and spoon out onto a muslin cloth.

Place this inside a steamer basket loosely covering over the top of the mochi. Heat up some water in a pan and place the steamer on top. Steam for 15 minutes.

Tip out the mochi into a bowl and let it cool slightly so you can handle it. Add your tea powder and start to knead the mochi until all the tea powder is incorporated.

Scatter some kinako onto a cutting board and roll out your dough with a rolling pin thinly. Start to cut out your square shapes using your stencil.

When you have finished cutting out, add a teaspoon of anko to the middle of each mochi square.

Fold the mochi over corner to corner and gently seal the edges together by pressing slightly. Do this with all the remaining squares and you’re done.

Yatsuhashi often has a slight cinnamon flavour if you would like this I recommend either adding a little cinnamon to your tea powder or sprinkling some cinnamon mixed with kinako on your cutting board. I like to serve with either a sprinkle of kinako or sieved matcha over the yatsuhashi on top.
Best eaten on the day of making but can be stored in an airtight container for up to two days. Do not put in the fridge. They can also be frozen, defrosted and eaten straight away. Enjoy with your favourite tea while enjoying nature. Happy Greenery Day.

If you would like to make Yuzu yatsuhashi use 1/2 Yuzu juice and 1/2 water and omit the tea powder. Just use kinako again to dust your surface to stop it from sticking.