This month’s Savory Kyoto essay in Kyoto Visitor’s Guide is about the different kinds of wagashi (Japanese snacks). Wagashi are not technically desserts — as we categorize them on Savory Japan — because they can be savory as well as sweet, and are typically eaten in the middle of the day instead of after dinner.
One of the easiest types of wagashi to make at home are Ohagi, glutinous rice cakes either filled or covered with anko (sweet bean paste). Additionally, the main ingredients are dried and readily available outside of Japan. You can even buy prepared anko in a can or sealed bag at your local Japanese grocer to save time. As an added bonus, since ohagi are supposed to look home made, it’s not important for them to be perfect.
NOTE: While anko keeps for several weeks in the fridge, ohagi must be consumed the day they’re made, because the rice gets hard. It’s not the kind of thing you make for two, but for parties and special occasions, they’re perfect AND likely to disappear, so you don’t have to worry about leftovers.
1 cup uruchi mai (white rice)
1 cup mochigome (sweet rice)
¼ tsp salt
2.5 cups anko (sweet bean paste)
6 tbsp rice flour or kinako (powdered soybean)
Mix the rices and prepare as basic rice. Remove the hot rice into a sturdy bowl, add salt and mix vigorously with a wooden pestle or sturdy spoon. This will take some muscle, and will inevitably leave some kernels intact, which I prefer. Or, you can use a breadmaker or mixer with a dough attachment, if you want perfectly smooth cakes.
Wet your hands with salted water, pinch a golfball-sized piece of dough and flatten it in the palm of your hand. Put one spoonful of bean paste in the center and pinch the sides of the dough up to encase the paste. This is quite tricky, because the paste is sticky. Dip the completed ohagi into the rice flour or powdered kinako.
Alternatively, you can form a ball from the rice paste and cover with the bean paste, as seen above. You’ll need small forks to serve this type.
Makes about 12 ohagi