The taste of Japanese summer – matcha warabi mochi!
They are slowly disappearing, but across Japan food vendors travel around in vans(they used to pull hand-carts!) selling hot sweet-potatoes (ishi yaki imo) in winter, and warabi mochi (sweet bracken starch dumplings) in the summer.
The evening air would echo with their songs; “Ishi Ya~ki Imo~!” in the winter, and “Warabi~Mochi~” in the summer, each vendor with a slightly different variation on the song.
Here is a warabi mochi vendor:
And here is one selling sweet potatoes:
Warabi is starch made from bracken. The real thing is extremely expensive, so nowadays in Japan you can buy a cheaper version made from sweet potato starch and tapioca. But if you can’t find it in Japanese supermarkets in the UK, you can use cornstarch instead. The texture is half way between jelly and mochi rice cakes. It’s very easy to make, and delicious, so have a go!
Ingredients (for 4 people)
- 60g warabi powder (or corn starch)
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 1/2 tablespoons matcha
- 300cc water
- Brown sugar syrup (Buy ready-made, or you can make it yourself (see below))
- Soy flour (kinako)
1. Dissolve the matcha in a little boiling water.
2. Put the warabi (or corn starch), sugar and matcha into a saucepan and mix well.
3. Add the water slowly, mixing with a wooden spatula so it all dissolves thoroughly.
4. Place on medium heat and keep stirring. When it begins to thicken, reduce to low heat until the paste turns transparent, keep mixing and turn off the heat. It’s important to knead the mixture well with your spatula!
5. While the mixture is still hot, use a wet spoon to scoop up bite-sized dumplings, and drop them into a bowl of ice water.
6. When the dumplings have cooled, drain off the water, arrange them in a bowl, sprinkle with soy flour (kinoko) and pour plenty of brown sugar syrup over them. Yum!
You can cool your dumplings in the fridge, too, but be sure to make it for less than an hour, otherwise they lose their lovely fresh texture. I prefer to use ice water.
To make brown sugar syrup.
100g brown cane sugar
1. Put the sugar and water in a saucepan on medium-low heat until it begins to bubble.
2. Reduce to low heat, and heating gently scoop off any scum that appears. Once the syrup has thickened, take off the heat and cool.