Itadakimasu! – 桜餅の関東風 Kanto Style Sakuramochi
I love 桜餅 sakuramochi and eat them whenever I could find them or find time to make them. And it has mostly been the Kansai version where 道明寺粉 domyoji-ko is used. I love love love glutinous rice and enjoy practically everything that comes with it. So I always have a stash of domyoji-ko and pickled sakura leaves at home so that I can make them whenever a craving sets in. Oddly, I’d not made the Kanto version before despite enjoying them several times in Japan. So I guess its a good time to try!
The Kanto version uses a mini flat pancake/crepe for wrapping the anko, i,e. red bean paste filling. The choice of anko also differs slightly with the Kanto version favoring koshi’an where the beans are pressed through a sieve to produce a uber smooth paste, while the Kansai version typically uses tsubushi’an where the cooked whole beans are simply mashed. The latter has more texture and bite to it while koshi’an tastes more “yasashii“, i.e. soft and delicate. Despite the difference, I don’t think the choice of filling is very much reinforced as I do see both Kansai and Kanto versions being filled with each other’s supposed “default” filling. So I guess it all boils down to individual preference!
白玉粉 (shirotama-ko) on the left for the Kanto version and 道明寺粉 (domyoji-ko) on the right for the Kansai version. In our most recent trip to Tokyo, we did notice the Kansai version being sold in the wagashi sections in Japanese departmental stores (depaato) as well, but they were labelled as “Domyoji” instead of “Sakuramochi“.
Shirotama-ko is not the same as mochi-ko or dango-ko. Japanese round-grained (short-grained) glutinous rice is also different from the Southeast Asian long-grained versions which are typically grown in Thailand. So please get the right flour for making Sakuramochi as their characteristics are quite different.
Since I’d made quite a big batch of tsubushi’an for dorayaki, and had opened a new bag of pickled sakura leaves, I made some Kansai version as well. Please refer here for the recipe to make the Kansai version as well as for the making of tsubushi’an.
The intricacies in the art of wagashi are carefully observed in making sakuramochi. The notion of “雅“ （miyabi) is perpetuated with the anko peeking through the wrap slightly on the sides. The wrapped pancake in turn peeks through the sakura leaf which go on top of it. The layering effect shows everything within but in a very delicate, and almost transcendental manner.
The thin pancake wrap is made using a mixture of shirotama-ko and low-gluten flour (薄力粉). I’d used cake flour and it worked very well. The proportions of the two flours vary with recipe to recipe. I’d seen recipes which called for only 2 teaspoons of shirotama-ko against 80g of cake flour, while others going for a 1:1 ratio of the two. Shirotama-ko, which is essentially milled glutinous rice flour provided a chewy and elastic texture to the entire confection and hence its “mochi-like” characteristics. The bite should be assertive but non-ontrusive. Afterall, having to chew on the snack repeatedly in an excessive manner before being able to swallow it is hardly miyabi-like at all. After experimenting with several proportions, I finally settled with a ratio which I feel is very close to the sakuramochis which I’d enjoyed in Tokyo.
As with most delicate confections, flame and temperature control is important. The pancakes should be just nicely cooked on both sides without crisping the skins too much as it would leave unsightly scorch marks on the surface. Apart from tasting good, the aesthetics of the piece in its entirety should be carefully maintained, again in line with the notion of miyabi.
With the mise en place completed, all that is left is to assemble the various parts together. Do note that the mini pancakes have to be covered most of the time to prevent them from drying out. This is very similar to what is done for making dorayaki as well.
Despite the pickled sakura blossoms in the photo, I’d chosen not to use them in the final pieces as we’d seen both versions in the wagashi stores we’d visited in Japan. I personally prefer it without the cherry blossom for the Kanto version, while it seems almost obligatory in the Kansai version.
桜餅の関東風 Kanto Style Sakuramochi Recipe (makes 10)
30g 白玉粉 shirotama-ko
50g 薄力粉 low-gluten flour （cake flour or pastry flour works well)
30g fine-grained or castor sugar
130 ml water
200g anko (red bean paste, either koshi’an, tsubushi’an or if you can find, “sakura-an” which is made with pickled sakura leaves and shiro’an)
10 pieces of pickled sakura leaves
pink food colouring
Flavourless, light-coloured cooking oil for greasing pan
Rinse sakura leaves 2-3 times with water. Pat dry and cover with kitchen towel and set aside.
Divide anko into 10 equal portions, row into slightly elongated balls and set aside.
In a mixing bowl, add sugar and water, mix well to dissolve sugar.
Sift cake flour and shirotama-ko into the syrup mixture and mix well to homogenise. Add a little bit of food colouring and mix until batter is uniformly coloured.
Strain the mixture to remove any flour lumps and set aside for 10 -15 min.
Prepare a clean and flat non-stick pan by greasing it very lightly with a flavourless, light-coloured cooking oil. Wipe off any excess oil with a kitchen napkin.
Over low heat, add a Chinese soup spoonful of batter into the pan and use the back of the spoon to very gently spread the batter out into an oval/elliptical shape. The width of the pancake should be slightly larger than the width of the sakura leaves. Cook the pancakes on one side until the base is ready to be dislodged (about 20-30 seconds). Carefully flip and cook the other side (shorter time, about 15-20 seconds).
Place the cooked pancake on a plate and cover it to prevent the pancakes from drying out. They will soften slightly as they cool down.
Repeat the procedure until all the pancake batter is used up.
When the pancakes have cooled down sufficiently to be handled, place an elongated ball of anko in the middle of each pancake and bring the shorter sides towards each other. Press gently ONLY the shorter sides to seal, leave the longer sides exposed. The anko filling should be barely peeking through the sides of the pancake. Place the filled pancake over a piece of pickled sakura leaf and fold it into half. The tackiness of the warm pancake should cause the leaf to stick to the surface,
Alternatively, the pancake can be rolled over the elongated anko, after which the filled pancake is then rolled over a piece of sakura leaf.