One of my favourite meals in China was our 34-course degustation at Yu’s Family Kitchen in Chengdu. So when the June Sweet Adventures Blog Hop was announced I decided to try and mimic a dessert from Chef Yu Bo’s menu. There was just one problem… I had no idea what the dessert actually was.
See, June’s theme was Out of the Frying Pan. If you’re not sure what the blog hop is, head to the Sweet Adventures website and make sure you check out the Kitchen Crusader’s recipe for chai crepes and caramelised bananas (she’s hosting this month’s blog hop). I don’t prepare many desserts in a frying pan. In fact, I can’t think of any desserts I’ve made outside of TAFE that have required a frying pan. When I thought of frying pans my mind went straight to Yu’s Family Kitchen.
Back to the problem. I could guess various elements of this dessert but I still didn’t really know what it was, let alone how to make it. It had a crispy shell that was filled with a soft gooey centre, and coated with a powder. It wasn’t entirely sweet, and it wasn’t entirely savoury. I did my research. The powder is called kinako. It’s a roasted soy bean powder used a lot in Japanese cuisine. I figured the rest of it was made with glutinous rice.
That’s where my dessert started. I decided to make mochi, fry them, and then coat them with kinako. Of course I’d never made mochi before, and I didn’t know where to start. Potential for disaster.
What You’ll Need:
You’d think a recipe with just one ingredient would be easy. It starts off simple enough. Process the rice, and then soak it in water for an hour. It is easy enough… until your stick mixer suddenly stops and starts smoking. Whoops!
Then you need to steam the rice for about 40 minutes in a bamboo steamer. I’d also never steamed rice using a bamboo steamer. Thanks to my ever knowing friend, Google, I set up my housemates wok and hoped that the burn marks weren’t going to tarnish my rice as the water bubbled through.
Here comes the fun part. Once the rice has finished, you’re supposed to transfer it to a motar and pestle. Don’t judge me. We don’t have a mortar and pestle in our tiny apartment. I figured I’d settled for the next best thing. A marble chopping board and a rolling pin. You’re supposed to pound the mixture in the mortar and pestle for about 10 minutes. And I did.
I used to think I came up with this genius b-grade horror movie idea at TAFE. Something along the lines of the Blob, but with sour dough. That stuff is crazy. You feed it daily. It just keeps getting bigger, and stickier. In the film the sour dough mix would just get bigger and bigger until it started consuming people. I knew nothing. Sticky rice is 10x more intense.
My housemate was having a grand old time listening to me pound away. Finally it looked somewhat smooth. My arms were sore. My rolling pin was covered in sticky rice. But I did it.
Things get a bit easier after this. Dust your work surface with rice flour. Knead the mix briefly, coating in rice flour, until it’s not sticky to the touch. Break bits off and roll them into small balls.
Once they’re all rolled, flatten down any that you’re adding filling too. You don’t need to add anything, but I like the added sweetness of the red bean and peanut butter. Roll a smaller amount of peanut butter mix or red bean paste and place it in the centre of the flattened circles. Then pinch up the sides and roll into a ball again.
Heat up your pan, and skip any oil. Place the balls in the frying pan, and wait until they’re golden brown. Then turn and do the same on the other side.
Finally. Dust with kinako and serve straight away.
Did I succeed in recreating our dessert at Yu’s Family Kitchen? Not quite. When you fry mochi the outside does go nice and crisp while the inside is warm and gooey, but it wasn’t quite the crispy outer shell we found at YFK. The kinako I bought was also not as flavoursome. I loved biting into the gooey mochi mixed with peanut butter or red bean (my housemate found it a bit of a peanut butter overload).
If you want to try this at home I’d recommend following the Serious Eats mochi recipe and Just One Cookbook’s guide to making red bean paste. While it was fun, it was also messy. I think next time I’m tempted to try toasted mochi I might just buy a box from the convenience store downstairs before popping them in the frypan. I don’t think my kitchen can handle another round of Tash Vs. Glutinous Rice Glob.
Have you ever tried making mochi at home? Lost any utensiles, appliances, or appendages in the process?
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Click here to view the rest of the Out of the Frying Pan blog posts. Unfortunately little old wordpress.com doesn’t support the cool thumbnails you’ll see at the bottom of everyone else’s blogs.