The Subaru Cherry Blossom Festival in Philadelphia started Tuesday, but the cherry trees are not quite ready yet! We live about an hour from Philadelphia, and we like to visit the city on weekends. Maybe we will go to see the cherry trees sometime soon.
The National Cherry Blossom festival started on March 20th and will last until the 13th this year. According to the bloom watch, the blossoms are not quite in bloom yet. I’m hoping to see the blossoms there, too, when they open!
The cherry trees in Washington, D.C., were first brought here from Japan in 1912 at the request of then-first lady Helen “Nellie” Taft, wife of William Howard Taft, who visited Japan and fell in love with the cherry trees she saw there. For over a century since then, people have been able to enjoy the beauty of this gift when they visit the Tidal Basin in spring.
Last March, my mother and I were visiting relatives in Osaka, Japan at the peak time of the sakura. I, like First Lady Taft, was enchanted and awestruck at the pulchritude of my ancestral land in full bloom.
In Japan, people celebrate the cherry blossom season with hanami, or flower viewing. People have parties under the sakura trees. When the parties are at night, they are called yozakura. Sakuramochi–cherry blossom mochi–is a popular treat, of course!
There are two types of sakuramochi, Kansai style and Tokyo style. In today’s post, I’ve provided you with Kansai style, but the recipe for Tokyo style is coming soon!
Kansai Style Sakuramochi
360 mL (1.5 U.S. cups or 2 Japanese cups) uncooked glutinous rice (mochi rice)
180 mL (.75 U.S. cups or 1 Japanese cup) uncooked Hukkura 10% milled brown rice (you can use regular white or brown rice; I like this brand because it has the taste of white rice while retaining the nutrition of brown rice)
1/4 cup Stevia in the raw or white sugar
Optional: very minimal quantity red food coloring, to tint the rice (I left this out; I don’t think food dyes belong in my body!)
540 mL (2.25 U.S. cups or 3 Japanese cups) water
Anko (azuki bean paste)**
Salt-preserved sakura (cherry blossom) leaves (yes, they are edible, and very good!)
Rinse the rice.
Mix the food coloring, if using, with the water.
Soak the rice in the water for two hours, then add the sweetener and cook in your rice cooker until done. I was able to cook the rice on the stovetop half-successfully, but I do not recommend this method for glutinous rice…you’d be better off steaming it.
When the rice is done, mash it until the grains are half crushed, but still quite lumpy–you do NOT want to mash it until smooth!
Roll the anko into balls of your desired size (I estimate around 2 teaspoons?) and wrap the rice around the balls.
Rinse the sakura leaves several times until most of the salt is removed.
Wrap the sakura leaves around the sakuramochi. I did not have sakura leaves, but I did have salt-preserved blossoms, which worked as well.
Chill and enjoy, preferably under the boughs of a cherry tree in bloom!
**You can buy canned pre-made anko paste, or you can make your own. Boil azuki beans (or buy the beans canned, then rinse them thoroughly), add sweetener to taste (anko is supposed to be very sweet; I add about 1/4 cup Stevia in the raw to 1/2 cup cooked beans), and mash the beans to your desired lumpiness.
Recipe is from Cookpad