>> tokara : january wagashi
So while in FreshFlours back in December with Co-Chan, we noticed that there were boxes of 和菓子 wagashi on sale, beautifully wrapped and in front of the display was a dainty little business card that said Tokara. Upon closer inspection, we realized that Tokara was not far from where we were, so we walked a couple blocks and was in front of this cute little Japanese-styled house with a small roofed wagashi display along the fence, a traditional Japanese gate-like entrance and a rock garden out front. As it turns out, the wagashi-maker makes wagashi fresh and seasonally, so before January transpired, I made sure that my friend and I could pay Tokara a visit.
To accompany the wagashi, we made a trip out to our favourite matcha haven, KOOTS Green Tea. Granted, it was a ways away in Bellevue, but how in the world could you eat wagashi without pairing it with a beautiful frothy bowl of 抹茶 matcha, sitting at a tatami matted area; it was just perfect. As my good friend exclaimed when she first held the wagashi in her hand: "It's just like a cloud!!"
The wagashi was indeed very soft, and it was beautifully crafted (Chef Tokara makes them fresh the day that they are picked up!). The lighting is a little off in the picture, otherwise you'd be able to see the soft subtle underlying pink through the semi-translucent mochi layer. The filling inside was smooth silky with a surprisingly tangy tropical fruity taste of pineapple or passionfruit. It was divine, and every soft bite chased with the warm deep bitterness of the 抹茶 just made it taste better and better. I must say though, I've been browsing pictures of the hanabiramochi online, and none of them look as beautiful/cute as the ones that Chef Tokara made. :)
The type of wagashi that we had was
葩餅 はなびらもち (hanabiramochi).
As defined by Wikipedia: 葩餅 はなびらもち Hanabiramochi is usually eaten at the beginning of the year. Hanabiramochi are also served at the first tea ceremony of the new year.
The name "hanabiramochi" literally means "flower petal mochi". The original form of Hanabiramochi is
The exact shape of hanabiramochi is strictly defined by tradition. The white mochi covering is flat and round, folded over to form a semicircular shape, and must have a pink color showing through in the center of the confection, fading to a white at the edge. Unlike a daifuku the mochi must not completely seal the insides.
In the center of a hanabiramochi is a layer of anko, a sweet bean paste, commonly the white kind made from sweetened mung beans. In the very center is a thin strip of sweetly flavoured gobo (burdock, which protrudes from the mochi on both sides.
The red colour showing through the white mochi is not only appropriate to the celebration of the new year but also evokes the Japanese apricot/plum (ume) blossom, which in turn represents the purity, perseverance, and renewal associated with the New Year.