Warabi Mochi Recipe

We had our first taste of warabi mochi on the basement floor of the Tokyu department store in Shibuya, Tokyo. Amid the extraordinary spread of edible goods — sweet, savory and in between, fresh, dried, hot, cold — was a little stand from which a lady was offering samples of soft, bite-size morsels dusted with a light brown powder.

We each took a wooden pick, lifted a piece to our mouth, and started chewing. It was amazing: the coating was fine-grained and nutty — I recognized it as being kinako, toasted soybeans ground to a fine powder — and the fleshy inside was cool on the tongue, offering a slight chew then quickly dissolving into a delicate sweetness.

We were moved to purchase some right on the spot, but the lady took the time to explain that these had to be eaten fresh that very day, and we felt the box was too big for us to make that commitment.

Later, when our travels took us to the Kansai region, we started seeing that same mochi-like confection everywhere, shaped as small cubes, flat little bricks, or oval balls, slumped against each other. We bought some here, some there, and loved it every time, though we had no idea what it was, or what it was called.

Eventually, we got a small box at the Nishiki-dori market in Kyoto, and the top had a beautiful label on which I was able to decipher the hiragana characters like a six-year-old: wa-ra-bi-mo-chi. Aha!

I looked it up online that night, and found out that it is indeed a Kansai specialty, and a particularly popular treat during the summer months. Although it is called mochi, it is a different kind of mochi made not with glutinous rice flour (mochiko or shiratamako), but with warabiko, bracken starch painstakingly ground from the root of the plant.

In my bulging travel notebook, to the list of things to bring back from Japan I added: warabiko.

On another visit to the Nishiko-dori market, I spotted a stand that sold little bags of assorted flours and powders. We walked up to it and asked if they had any warabiko. They did, but the lady, aided by her daughter who in fact didn’t speak much more English than we did Japanese, managed to convey to us that pure warabiko was very pricey (~¥30,000 — $320 — for a 300-gram pouch). She could, however, offer a more economical substitute called warabimochiko, a blend of sweet potato starch and tapioca starch with a small percentage of bracken starch mixed in (~¥300 for the same amount). When I asked if my warabi mochi would still be oishii (delicious), they nodded forcefully.

Considering the price we’d paid for the different warabi mochi we’d tasted, it was clear they had not been made with the expensive stuff, so I got a bag of the low-cost warabimochiko, and the lady sweetly slipped us a little bag of kinako as a gift. A great many arigatos and small bows later, we walked away, hovering slightly above ground from the pleasure such small encounters provide.

About a week after we’d returned home, I took out the packets and got to work. To complement the little instruction sheet (in Japanese) the lady had included, I’d searched for recipes online and though there weren’t many in English or French, I’d found enough helpful ressources to feel prepared.

The process is really quite straightforward: you mix the starch with water and sugar, sieve the mixture into a saucepan, and cook until it thickens and becomes translucent. Then you simply dump it on a work surface dusted with kinako, cut it into pieces and coat them some more, or chill the mixture in ice water first for a more refreshing mouthfeel.

Within minutes my warabi mochi was ready, and all we had to do was wait for it to cool. Armed with toothpicks, we tasted one, then two, then a couple more, and smiled broadly: this was it! Part of me had not quite believed the warabi mochi experience could be reproduced in my Paris kitchen, but there was no doubt about it now: my batch had very precisely the same taste and texture as the ones we’d eaten on our trip. It was delicious.

Of course, the Japanese backdrop was sorely missing, but we chose not to dwell on that, and focus on the mochi instead. And now that I’ve found a Parisian source for warabimochiko (see ingredient note at bottom of recipe), I’ve promised myself I wouldn’t fall prey to the too good to use syndrome, and I’ll be making warabi mochi with abandon every time nostalgia strikes.

Warabi Mochi Recipe

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes

Makes about 24 bite-size pieces.

Warabi Mochi Recipe

Ingredients

  • 60 grams (2 ounces) warabimochiko (see ingredient notes below recipe)
  • 240 ml (1 cup) lukewarm water
  • 50 grams (1/4 cup) sugar (I use a blond unrefined cane sugar)
  • about 30 grams (1 ounce) kinako (toasted soybeans ground to a fine powder, available at Japanese markets)

Instructions

  1. Place the warabimochiko in a medium mixing bowl. Whisk in the water little by little until the mixture is smooth, with no lumps. Whisk in the sugar. The mixture will be thin.
  2. Batter
  3. Sift the kinako and sprinkle it evenly to cover a silicone baking mat or a baking dish. (On the photo below, I hadn't sifted the kinako and later regretted it.)
  4. Kinako
  5. Set a fine-mesh sieve over a saucepan and pour the warabimochiko mixture through. Place the pan over medium heat. Stir with a wooden spoon constantly and energetically as the mixture heats and becomes thick and elastic.
  6. Batter cooking
  7. After just a little while, the mixture will turn translucent.
  8. Batter turning translucent
  9. When completely translucent, remove from the heat and pour the blob onto the prepared kinako, scraping the pan with a spatula; the dough will be very sticky. (Alternatively, you can pour the mixture -- whole or in small pieces -- into a bowl of ice water to chill first, before draining and coating with kinako.)
  10. Poured onto kinako
  11. Sprinkle the top with kinako, and use a dough cutter (or large knife) dusted with kinako to cut it into bite-size pieces.
  12. Cut into pieces
  13. Separate the pieces and roll them around gently to coat on all sides. Let cool completely before eating.
  14. Transfer them to a serving dish with some of the remaining kinako (pour the rest back into the package) and serve with toothpicks. (In Japan, they were served with flat wooden picks with an angled point, that seemed to echo the shape of the kuromoji, the utensil used to cut pastries during the tea ceremony.)

Notes

Warabi mochi will keep for a couple of days (despite what the lady said). Cover and keep at room temperature; if you refrigerate them, they'll get tough.

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Ingredient notes:

Thanks to Hiroyuki, a member of the eGullet Japan forums I wrote to for guidance, I now know that there are three kinds of starches you can use to make warabi mochi:

Hon warabiko (hon = authentic) is pure bracken starch. It comes in clay-colored little pebbles, it is very expensive, but it is the original flavor of warabi mochi (I’ve never tried it myself). The resulting paste is dark in color, and stickier than with the substitutes below.

Warabiko contains a percentage of bracken starch, complemented with sweet potato starch and tapioca starch.

Warabimochiko is the kind I got; it contains just a small amount of bracken starch — the rest is sweet potato and tapioca starch — and is much more affordable. It is white and comes in powdered or pebble form.

Outside of Japan, you may be able to find one of the above (and the kinako) at a Japanese market. If none are available, you can substitute katakuriko (potato starch), which is used to dust daifuku mochi and is less of a rarity, at least in Paris. Hiroyuki offers a recipe for his version of warabi mochi using katakuriko.

In Paris, the only place (to my knowledge) one can get warabimochiko is at Kanae, 118 rue Lecourbe in the 15th, 01 40 59 98 03 (map it!). It costs 2.30€ for 180 grams, which is about 30% more than I paid in Kyoto. I’ve combed through the Japanese grocery stores in the Rue Sainte-Anne neighborhood (Paris’ Little Tokyo) and couldn’t find any.

It is also customary to serve warabi mochi with a drizzle of kuromitsu (a dark unrefined can sugar syrup) in addition to kinako. In that case, you may want to reduce the amount of sugar a little bit.

Warabi Mochi

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  • http://www.bestoffates.com Megan (Best of Fates)

    I’ve never heard of Warabi Mochi, and would normally be hesitant after seeing it as a blob, but you’ve made it sound so delicious that I’m determined to find it somewhere and try it!

  • http://operagirlcooks.com Coco @ Opera Girl Cooks

    Wow, looks great! I have not yet had success making my own mochi, but maybe I will try your method — it is encouraging!

    And by the way, have you ever had mochi as a topping for frozen yogurt? It is an amazing combination.

    • Rose

      Would you happen to be in Arizona? I went to Lee Lee’s grocery store the other day on Cactus and 78th and found the mochi (green tea version) on their shelf. It tasted just like the one that you put on yogurt.

      This grocery store in near Glendale, AZ

  • http://thelacquerspoon.blogspot.com the lacquer spoon

    Your warabi-mochi is so beautiful! Love the silky elegant taste, plus I feel like taking a time trip to a thousand years ago when the surrounding nature is much closer to us, everytime I eat this mochi. Thank you for introducing the recipe :)

  • http://www.gamereviewwiki.com/bikinibirthday Samantha Angela @ Bikini Birthday

    Is that like a Turkish Delight?

  • http://www.crispytarts.blogspot.com The French

    Wow. I love this so much that I just said to my boyfriend, “Let’s go to Japan this summer!” He then said he needed a cup of coffee before we continue this discussion:)

    Any chance that there’s a way to do this without refined sugar? Doubt it, but thought I’d ask. Sometimes it’s best not to mess with perfection.

  • http://cookeatplayrepeat.blogspoy.com Jennifer Muir

    Oh, we had this when we were in Nara! Loved it! Now I know what to buy next time I’m in Japan so I can make it at home :D

  • http://www.dessertfortwo.com DessertForTwo

    Very interesting! You always inspire me! Thanks!

  • Celine

    I saw your tweet days ago about warabi mochi, and couldn’t wait your post on your blog! I hope I will go to Japan one day :)

    Thanks a lot for the recipe. I can’t wait to get some warabimochiko and kinako in Paris and try it :D

  • http://www.thatveganblog.com Danielle

    Fascinating! It must be such a pleasure to recreate a treat that also brings back fun memories of your trip. Thanks for sharing, and especially for including enough information and photos– it helps the process seem less intimidating.

  • http://wiegottindeutschland.blogspot.com Véronique

    I remember – but I haven’t been there in years – that Kioko on rue des Petits-Champs has a wide selection of products. Have you tried there as well?

  • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

    Coco – While in Japan, we had dinner at a friend’s house, and dessert was matcha ice cream with balls of mochi and kinako. It was fantastic and I’ve made a note of it to serve it to my own guests sometime!

    Samantha – I guess you could liken the two to some extent, but the texture of warabi mochi feels fresher and more fluid somehow. The flavor is also quite different from the kinako.

    The French – As you’ll see in the recipe, I’ve made my warabi mochi with unrefined cane sugar, so the answer is yes!

    Véronique – Kioko does have a good selection of Japanese goods, but it’s one of the stores I combed through and they don’t stock warabimochiko.

  • http://www.hertzmann.com Peter Hertzmann

    Have you tried this with just a mixture of potato and tapioca starches? Or maybe just tapioca starch by itself, which cooks up clear? Or even ordinary michiko, which also cooks up clear? I’d love to know what effect the small amount of bracken starch adds.

  • http://www.aspiringvegan.eu Pauline

    That slab of warabimochiko waiting to be coated looks rather like a jellyfish… but the whole recipe is totally vegan! Thanks for this one, Clotilde. I am intrigued and will have to buy some soon (to think I used to live just across the street from Kanae – not that it existed then).

  • http://www.hertzmann.com Peter Hertzmann

    I’m answering my own question, which for some reason I don’t see above. I’m trying the recipe using just tapioca starch. The cooking was simple, dumped the first three ingredients into a small saucepan over high heat and stirred with a wooden spatula until thick and clear. Poured it into a Japanese cake pan (11 x 14 cm) lined with plastic. It’s cooling right now.

  • Zanitta

    I live in Mie-ken (just outside the Kansai region, about 2-2.5 hrs out of Kyoto by train) and this is *everywhere* here! I didn’t realise it was considered a Kansai specialty though. Japancentre.com is a UK based shop that delivers to Europe and sells Japanese food/ingredients/kitchenware if you are ever desperate for something (though it’s a little expensive), and a quick google check found quite a list of other places that will deliver. Sorry if this sounds a little spammy.

  • Shigeru

    Warabimochiko is made of sweet potato starch, rather than potato starch, as your link indicated.
    Katakuriko in market is indeed made of potato starch. It would cost more than warabi starch if real katakuri starch was used.

  • Valerie

    I lived in Japan for 8 years and my favourite place to eat warabi mochi was aslo in Nara outside of beautifull temple …I can say that it does look like some of the turkish sweets but it is much more soft and sweet..I love them…I will try to make some!!

  • hanna

    This reminds me a lot of the korean injeolmi, made of glutinous rice dough that’s pounded (a lot and with a big mallet for that purpose) before pieces are rolled around in bean flour. The fun part is watching the pounding, of course, and then eating fresh pieces of the injeolmi. Yum!

  • http://www.crispytarts.blogspot.com The French

    Sorry, Clotilde. I’ve been known to read a recipe and then not absorb any info. When cooking, I often have to look again and again. I suspect it will only get worse as I get older:)

  • http://cafecampana.com Mark @ Cafe Campana

    What a very strange looking gel. I am very intregued to know what it tastes like and to feel the texture.

  • http://chocolatierm.blogspot.com Brian Asis

    Thank you for sharing this article and proving a visual step by step guide on making mochi!

  • june

    newbie cook question…

    Would this work with tapioca flour instead of tapioca starch? Will attempt it anyways. :) Thanks for sharing!

  • http://sasasunakku.wordpress.com Sasa

    Warabi mochi was one of my favourite oyatsu (afternoon tea) when I was little, and kinako is really healthy too ^^ I’m going to try making here in Austria, thanks for the recipe!

  • http://bewitchingkitchen.com SallyBR

    I am absolutely mesmerized by this recipe, not even sure why…

    I will do my best to find the ingredients and make it

  • Mariko

    Oh thank you, thank you! I actually brought some kinako back from Japan last time (I figured I’d brain storm to use it) but never thought I’d make warabimochi at home. Can’t wait to try, especially with summer around the corner! I’m lucky enough to have an excellent Japanese grocery near me, so I will search for the warabimochiko.

  • Teri

    I am impressed. I live in Tokyo, and I’ve never even dreamed of making my own mochi-related dessert. I had no idea it was so easy. Glad you had a good time in magical Japan!

  • A.Kawasaki

    There is also a microwave method:
    3Tb(30g)tapioca flour/warabimochiko
    2Tb (20g)sugar
    150mL water.
    Mix all. Microwave at one-minute intervals, stirring between intervals. (Usually 3 x one-minute intervals are sufficient to cook the starch.)Immerse in ice water. Cut into bite-size pieces. Sprinkle with kinako. Drizzle with kuro mitsu (black sugar syrup). The amount of sugar can be adjusted to taste. Various powders can be added for color and taste (e.g. matcha). The liquid can be substituted with milk for variation.

  • Alli

    Hi! I’m new to your blog, but I got so excited that you posted a recipe for mochi. My family makes a huge batch every New Year’s Day (instead of using flours or starches, we have a machine that helps us pound rice into the sticky end product, then we roll the blob of mochi into palm-sized balls). We keep them in the freezer and either boil or fry them for breakfast. We like to eat it with a kinako-sugar mixture (except for my husband, who only eats it with sugar). Whenever I mention mochi here in California, no one ever knows what I’m talking about and I never know how to explain it to them.

    Sorry for the super-long post – I just get really excited about mochi!

  • http://simplyrecipes.com Elise

    Hi Clotilde,
    What a wonderful post! I loved to devour these sweets when I lived in Kyoto. I can’t believe you learned how to make them and you made them back home in Paris! I could stuff myself silly on these. :-)

  • Lisa

    You’re my hero Clotilde! Eating warabi mochi in Paris is the dream.

  • http://chasingbawa.wordpress.com sakura

    I love warabimochi, especially in summer. It’s so refreshing. We always cool it in the fridge for about half an hour before eating to make it extra cooling on a hot day.

  • Yasukostyle

    Warabimochi was my favorite snack when I was little. Nara is the best place to eat warabimochi.

    When my mother makes them, she quickly spoons hot translucent mixture into a bowl of iced water (keep the water ice cold) using two table spoons (one to scoop and another to push) first dipped in water(to keep from sticking). Individual pieces are fished out of water and drained on a clean cotton or linen tea towel. Sometimes she sprinkles warabimochi with matcha (powdered green tea), kinako, sugar mixture. Uguisuko (green soybean powder) is good too. Using San-on-toh (powdered raw sugar) instead of granulated white sugar is good. Prepared this way, you do not need to refrigerate. Refrigeration changes warabimochi. I’m glad you had a wonderful time in Japan.

  • http://thoughtfulplate.wordpress.com kim

    I eat this a lot when I worked in Japanese. Love the kinako powder. :)

  • Sally de Montbel

    You should try warabi mochi dusted with cocoa powder….it’s divine!!!

  • http://www.scandifoodie.blogspot.com/ Maria @ ScandiFoodie

    I love mochi of any kind, must try this recipe!

  • http://wordofthedayfreshfresh.blogspot.com/ Nathalie (@spacedlaw)

    Have you tried Izrael, Rue François Miron? They have the weirdest things from all over the world.

    There used to be a Japanese supermarket on Rue des Petits Champs, but that was a good 20 years ago. Who knows what happened since… Otherwise maybe ask at the Japanese cultural centre (101 Bis Quai Branly) as they might have handy addresses?

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      Izrael has very few Japanese ingredients (they can’t have everything!) and Kioko on rue des Petits Champs doesn’t have warabimochiko either, but I’ve found it at Juji-Ya on rue Sainte-Anne!

  • Yvonne

    Thanl you for your post on warabimochi! It was because of this recipe post that I decided to buy the ingredients to make warabimochi when traveling through Kyoto recently :) When I make it, I’ll update with my results! Cheers

  • Yvonne

    Ok…I’ve made the warabimochi using the above recipe and can say that it turned out ok, but wasn’t as good as expected. This was partly because I bought a cheap soybean flour which tasted quite bland when sprinkled over the warabimochi. The warabimochi didn’t have as smooth a texture as I would like, but the flavor was nice, not too sweet. Saying all that though, I don’t know whether I would try doing it again since no one else liked it and most of it was binned *sigh*

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      Sorry yours didn’t come out to your liking, Yvonne. I agree that the kinako plays a big role in the overall flavors. How about the warabimochiko, what kind/source did you use?

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