Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Launch Party Prep, Mochi and Memories: Kushi Dango Recipe

Huzzah! Am I ever glad to be back on my broomstick!
It took too long, but I am over my illness and the doctors set me right.

I am most pleased to actually be able to enjoy cooking and food again.
Not sure who is happier though, me or Monkey-man! He was eating the
bland, simple foods right along side me. I couldn’t stomach much and
he was sweet to not make me feel left out of something exciting. But I
don’t think he could stand eating beans on toast much longer either!

So I am back and getting ready for the Compassion Over Killing
Los Angles Office Launch Party
! It is going to be amazing! There is
going to be tons of great people, food, and a darn good time for all!
You can check out the event on Facebook or get your tickets here!

One of the product donors, Eco-Vegan, is donating some amazing
veggie meat for the party-- and I have the honor of dressing and
cooking it up for the party-goers!

Tomorrow I’ll show you the awesome samples they sent me to test out
the recipes for the party.

Because of the party, I’ve been working on some of the menu items.
One of which will be Mango Mochi! Not a lot of people may be very
familiar with mochi and I am a huge exception to that rule.
Mochi has become a little better known lately, but is pretty unusual.

Mochi is a Japanese sweet made from pounded sweet, sticky rice.
Depending on the occasion, it will be served plain, flavored, colored
with barley or beans, wrapped in pickled leaves (sakura-mochi),
filled with sweet bean paste (an-mochi), baked, served on sticks,
the list goes on and on.

I chose this dish for a number of reasons... first my menu is
Thai-Japanese fusion. A traditional Thai dessert is a steamed,
layered, sweet rice cake that is very similar to a plain Japanese mochi.
Second, I wanted to choose something that would be easy to eat,
pick up, and would be soy and gluten-free for those with allergies.
But most of all, I have very fond memories of mochi and I’d love to
share them at such special occasion...

I took Japanese language courses for many many years growing up
and became entranced with many of the cultural traditions. Wish I was
still fluent, I was as a teenager. Not like riding a bike though.
Watching anime as a kid I loved watching the characters munching on
the sticky treats. Of course the American producers would change the
dialogue and call mochi donuts instead to match US interests.
But I also grew up in a very heavy asian community in So Cal,
so many of the shops nearby offered fresh mochi!

Also, when I was growing up my parents were very into watching
Sumo. I know this may sound very weird to you, but its true. It is
not a bunch of fat guys bumping bellies like many Americans believe.
It rich in cultural traditions (many of which are dying) and extremely
cool to watch. Whenever they got the chance, my parents would take us
to actual tournaments. Instead of hotdogs and peanuts, you’d find red
bean cakes, mochi and Sapporo!

Well, I didn’t drink beer, but I certainly enjoyed the sweets and
maybe some green tea soymilk or red bean ice cream!

Skip to my teen years- Hilo, Hawaii. The communities in Hawaii
emerged from a plantation culture, a conglomeration of Japanese,
Chinese, Filipino, Portuguese, Thai and so on. As such many of the
traditions are seen in the local faire. You see a lot of sushi, char sui,
and yes mochi. Hawaiian mochi is often baked instead of steamed
(oh gods, or worse microwaved) and made with condensed milk or
butter. This yields more of a chewy cake instead of a plush bun.
But there are traditionalists, and my favorite was Two Ladies in Hilo
who would make the Strawberry-An Mochi, read bean filled, and even
Taro. But my favorite was the Momo-Mochi-- (Momo= Peach)
Peach and white bean filled. PEACH LOVE!

(To find more vegan Hawaiian Recipes, check out my vegan-hawaii series)

It is from the Hawaiian fusion flavor that I pulled out some wicked
mango mochi. I'll be posting some pictures as I go along and certainly
of the party, but here is something in the meantime. These we would
get at sumo tournaments and anime expos. Plus, something you can
depend on being vegan. FYI, many of the prepackaged versions do have
MSG in the sauce. Find it fresh! If you live in LA, you can get it in
Little Tokyo.

Easy, delicious and not as sweet as your usual mochi cake these are
great for parties or just a snack. Careful, they are addictive!

Kushi Dango



Mochi:
1 1/3 cup rice flour
3/4 boiling water

Mitarashi Sauce:
1/3 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp potato starch + 1 tbsp water

You can use mochiko (sweet rice flour), they will just be a bit
stickier and chewier. Joshinko, plain rice flour is made from long
grain rice and not as glutinous as the short grain mochiko. Don’t try
to use western style rice flour-- the stuff you’d find in the gluten-free
zone of American and western markets-- it is not the same as Japanese
or other Asian rice flours.

I used party picks here, but traditionally they are grilled on skewers
(3 on each).

Pour the hot water over the rice flour and stir with a wooden spoon or
paddle. Once it has cooled enough to handle, knead in the bowl with a
little extra rice flour. It is more folding over and over to make sure
there are no lumps, not exactly like you’d knead bread dough.

Next pull off little scoops and roll them in between your palms to form
smooth balls. They should be around 3/4 inch in diameter or about the
size of a walnut in it’s shell.

Place into a lightly greased steamer with some room in between. They
will expand and stick together, so give them some space if you can.
Steam the rice balls on high for 10-15 minutes. Scoop them out and
push on to damp skewers. They will be very sticky.

While your pan is heating, start the sauce by bringing the water, sugar
and soy sauce to a boil. Add the potato starch mixed in water and stir
til thickened. Keep on low.

Place the skewered mochi on a hot, non-stick pan and grill each side
until a golden brown. Brush with the mitarashi sauce and serve
immediately. If you used a joshinko rice flour they will last longer,
if you used mochiko they will get denser the longer you wait.

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