Spring themed Japanese Cakes – KIMISHIGURE, KOUBAI

It’s Spring equinox today and we had solar eclipse this morning in the UK, and it’s super moon tonight. What a day to celebrate the start of Spring.

I had an opportunity to make some traditional Japanese cakes (WAGASHI), for Japanese spring festival early this month. Some Japanese people living in North West of Northern Ireland organised an event which celebrated HINAMATSURI (Japanese doll festival on 3rd March) and coming Spring. I made three spring themed WAGASHI for them to sample.


Those pictures are from the event.


From left: KOUBAI (direct transtation will be ‘red plum’), KIMISHIGURE (‘egg yolk drizzle/rain’), SAKURA MOCHI (‘cherry leaf dumping’)

I had a post about SAKURA-MOCHI here last year, as this is very popular spring sweets in Japan.

The other two are less known, but also quite traditional.


KIMISHIGURE (黄身時雨)is steamed bun made with white bean paste with egg yolk. SHIGURE means drizzle or shower, and the name came from characteristic cracks on the top, as it looks like the sky when rain is passing by.



The natural yellow of yolks and slight hint of green from MACHA underneath symbolize the start of Spring. Inside colour doesn’t have to be green, I have seen the one with pink colour peeking through.


Inside is smooth AZUKI paste, and green tea bean paste on top. It’s very gentle sort of cake, sweet and crumbly. It crumble and melt in your mouth.



KOUBAI (紅梅)means red plum, but actually these names doesn’t really mean anything. It’s one of NERIKIRI (練りきり) cakes, and NERIKIRI can be formed in any shape or colour like modelling clay. So, you might find similar thing called in different names, like SAKURA (cherry blossom), KANBAI (winter plum), ICHOU (ginko leaf) etc…

NERIKIRI is a paste made of sweet white bean paste and sweet dumpling called GYUUHI (which is made of starch and sugar), and it is one of traditional cake in Japan.
We rarely eat those at home, but it is popular choice if you are having tea ceremony or other traditional celebrations.


NERIKIRI usually have sweet AZUKI bean paste or white bean paste inside. This time, I put KIMI-ANN, egg yolk white bean paste.

The shape and colour can be changed to fit for an occasion. Seasonality is very important. For example, plum is for late winter to early Spring thing, I just get away with plum in early March, but strictly speaking, it might be even too late to be serving plum shape cakes after the end of February.


All those cakes are great with a cup of green tea.
(Do make sure you drink green tea without sugar or milk or lemon!  Although we often have a slice of lemon with black tea, normal British tea, in Japan, we never have lemon with green tea.)

Those traditional Japanese cakes are called WAGASHI, and sold at WAGASHI-YA in Japan. It’s strange but I don’t think I would have made any of those if I lived in Japan. I’ve started to make them only because there isn’t any shops selling them here. I had to buy some ingredients from Japanese on-line shop, but it is great that I can make and eat those traditional cakes in Belfast.

Have a nice Spring equinox!

and Happy Fiesta Friday!! It’s 60th! Thanks to Angie for super new page for the party and this week’s co-hosts, Tracy @Scratch It Cook and Nancy @Feasting With Friends !



Summer holiday half gone, it is already August.
It is not as hot as it gets in Japan, but we had some decent summer days in Northern Ireland. It is only about 23C to 25C, actually, but I do feel hot with this temperature nowadays. It is amazing how people get adjusted to the climate.

In those ‘hot’ days, I’d like to have cold desserts.
WARABI-MOCHI is one of my favourtite. It is a Japanese sweet tea time treat for summer time.
MOCHI is the word we describe sticky dumpling, often made with glutenous rice.
WARABI is a name of wild plant which produce certain type of starch, WARABI-KO (WARABI flour).

WARABI-MOCHI is a watery dumpling traditionally made of WARABI-KO, often served with KINAKO (soya bean powder+sugar) and KUROMITSU (molasses sauce).

P1070574 (640x481)
WARABI-MOCHI, it’s watery and bouncy, but doesn’t taste anything without sauce. )

Nowadays, most WARABI-MOCHI is made with a bit of WARABI-KO and mostly other type of starch, as real WARABI-KO is really expensive. Probably, you can get real 100% WARABI-MOCHI only in exquisite traditional Japanese cake shops even in Japan.

I make WARABI-MOCHI just with potato starch here, so, in fact it should be called ‘Fake WARABI-MOCHI’ or ‘WARABI-MOCHI style starch dumpling’ to avoid any wrong doing. Well, as long as you know… do you care? It does taste same to me.

P1070576 (640x481)

It’s cold, sweet, sticky, bouncy and very summery.
If you like Japanese food, you should try this once during summer.


  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

potato starch (or KATAKURI KO)…….50g
sugar…………1 1/2 TBS

1. put potato starch, sugar and water in a pan, mix well.
2. Put the pan over low heat, mix constantly. The mixture will suddenly thicken, so keep mixing well, until it turn transparent. Take it off the heat.
3. In a large bowl, put some ice cold water  (water with ice cubes). Then put the warm WARABI-MOCHI from the pan into the water.
4. Using  your hands, gently hold the chunk/ball of WARABI MOCHI in the water, then make a O shape with thumb and index finger and squeeze the MOCHI through.  Cut by closing thumb and index finger to make small ball shape. Odd shape is fine.
5. Change water a few times to keep it cool.
(Don’t refrigerate, as it will be too cold and WARABI MOCHI will turn white.)

To serve,

take MOCHI out of water, sprinkle some KINAKO (soya bean powder + some sugar and a pinch of salt), and drizzle with KUROMITSU (molasses sauce).
(You can make KUROMITSU by mixing 1 TBS golden syrup and 1TBS trickle. )

Best eaten as soon as you make them, serve cold.

Happy Fiesta Friday!
Have a nice summer weekend.


SAKURA MOCHI – cherry leaf dumpling

Spring is definitely here! Many cherry trees were in full bloom last weekend, petals are falling now, making the ground so pretty in pale pink.

I am Japanese, I adore cherry blossom. It’s in my blood.

There must be some sort of theory behind it, some anthropologists must have studied it. But I personally think it is to do with the fact that many schools have cherry trees in their ground, and all schools start in April in Japan. I saw it blossomed since I was a little three years old going to a kinder-garden for first time to twenty something years old graduating from a university.
Cherry blossom is symbol of new start and growth, separations attached to the new beginning, the sentimentality of it all.

I remember having HANAMI (cherry blossom viewing) lunch at primary school with new classmates, watching petals falling with wind, giggling that a petal had fallen to my soup.
Also I remember the time I went to HANAMI at evening with my family at old castle ground, the cherry trees were so beautiful and mystical in the dark. My dad told me the tale that blossoms there were so pink because of the blood of SAMURAI soldiers who died at historical battle gave me a shiver in chilly Spring evening.

We, Japanese, love cherry trees so much, and we eat cherry leaves and blossoms as well as just looking at them.
Traditional Japanese cooking use some seasonal leaves, not only cherry tree, but also oak leaves for May, bamboo leaves, some area use some camellia for winter, so on and on.  (we don’t actually eat oak or bamboo, camellia leaves, but just used for flavour and decoration)

Cherry leaf and blossom can be salted and stored, and eaten. It has special smell, which I associate with Spring.

One of popular sweet dish using cherry leave is this SAKURA-MOCHI. You can buy it at any Japanese traditional cake shop (WAGASHI-YA) in Japan in April.

P1070119 (640x481)

This one is popular type in West Japan, as this use DOUMYOUJI-KO (cracked glutinous rice).
In East Japan, we use glutinous rice powder and make thin pancake to roll ANKO (azuki paste). I actually grew up with East Japan style one, but I prefer this West Japan version.

P1070211 (640x481)

KOSHI-ANN (sieved azuki paste) is covered with pink dumpling made with DOMYOUJI-KO (cracked glutinous rice). Then rolled with salted cherry leaves.

To make this, I needed to get cherry leaves, DOUMYOUJI-KO (cracked glutinous rice),  KOSHI-ANN (sieved azuki paste) powder from Japanese baking shop via my mum’s.
I always think it is strange that I start making those Japanese treat which I never made while I was in Japan. I’d always thought it was something I just bought from shop. But in Belfast, I need to make one if I want to eat it, and I learnt how to.

It’s a strange combination of sweetness of Azuki beans and saltiness of cherry leaves. There is nothing like this smell and taste, it’s very special.

If you happen to be in Japan in Spring, or in large city somewhere in the world with a really good Japanese deli, and see this treat, please give a go. It is the taste of Japanese Spring.

Enjoy the last weekend of April!
Happy Fiesta Friday!!

Veg NIKU-MAN + ANN-MAN (Chinese Steamed Buns)

P1060487 (640x481)
I went to one of those ‘all you can eat’ restaurant some time ago, and found Chinese steamed buns at dim sum section.

We eat those buns in Autumn and Winter time in Japan. You can get all sort of different filling, (including something like cheese or pizza , which probably horrifies Chinese people) but my favourite is classic meat one or AZUKI-Beans one.

Now that I don’t eat meat, choosing a steam bun from un-labeled dim sum basket was like Russian roulette game.
The ones I got were filled with sweet potato (quite nice), and then custard (oh no, wasn’t nice, want to eat AZUKI bean one), and then custard  again (I gave up.)

This gave me an idea to make one myself. Sweet potato one like the restaurant, or Azuki beans one which I wanted to eat, or even vegetarian version of meat one!

Internet is wonderful place.
I chose the dough recipe which contains both yeast and baking powder, from many steam bun recipes on line. Once you got the dough recipe, filling is up to me.

P1060484 (640x481)
First of all, I made those sweet potato ones.
I thought my little son might eat some vegetable this way. But he didn’t. He ate outside and gave me sweet potato paste. My husband didn’t like sweet potato filling either, it wasn’t sweet enough. I shall make it sweeter next time.

Then, I made those Veg meat one.

P1060575 (640x481)

P1060576 (640x481)
I used meat bun recipe I found on-line, and substitute mince meat with chopped up veg sausage.  I think veg sausage meat is better than veg mince here.
The result was great, this was what I was looking for. My sons and my husband were happy with this type.

Then, I made Azuki bean filling one, but ate them all before I took photo.
I shall make some more soon. 🙂

(Nov 2013)

Diversity Day Fair Sale

A few weekend ago, a friend of mine invited me to participate in their community’s Diversity Day Fair.

It’s a community fair, with people from many different background selling their countries’ foods, showing some arts, and performing music and dance on stage.

I did this event last year as well, and I sold some traditional Japanese cakes and modern, French influenced Japanese cream cakes. It was fun to have a cake shop for a day, and also seeing Northern Ireland’s people’s reaction to traditional Japanese flavour like ANKO (azuki bean paste) or MACCHA (green tea).

This year, I couldn’t go to the fair myself, as I had another event I promised to go. But many Japanese friends were taking part, and I could ask some girls to take my goods and sell it for me.

I decided to make only traditional Japanese cakes this time, as many people were curious and brave enough to try traditional Japanese cakes last year.

And I made many TAIYAKIs and DAIFUKUs.

P1060080 (640x481)Those are TAIYAKI filled with ANKO (Azuki bean paste).

P1060081 (640x481)
I also made some Custard filled TAIYAKI, which was popular this year.
And some DAIFUKU (rice dumpling with ANKO). (see Strawberry DAIFUKU here)

ANKO in DAIFUKU is usually KOSHI-AN, very smooth, puréed and filtered bean paste.  (ANKO made with whole bean is called, TUBU-AN. TAIYAKI uses TUBU-AN)

This puréeing and filtering takes some effort. I got a blister on my finger while doing this process.
You can buy KOSHI-AN in powder form in Japan, which you can add water and sugar. I think I should use powder one if you are catering for large number again!

P1060082 (640x481)

DAIFUKU with sweet black beans on left, DAIFUKU with white bean paste with sweet chestnuts on right.

(Sep 2013)


P1060040 (640x481)

These fish are called, TAIYAKI, directly translated as ‘sea bream bake’, sweet snack cake popular in Japan.

It has no fish in it whatsoever, it’s a fish shape pancake filled with ANKO (sweet Azuki bean paste).

I used to buy it from TAIYAKI stalls at fairs or at shopping malls in Japan. They make those in specially moulded cooker, dozen fish at a time. They fill those fish with traditional Anko or custard cream, chocolate custard etc…

I have never dreamt of making TAIYAKI at home until a few years ago. One day, a Japanese friend who also lived in Belfast gave me a TAIYAKI pan which her friend in Japan given her some years back.

As the pan is made of iron, it was a bit tricky to use. Pancake butter sticks if you don’t heat the pan hot enough, so she didn’t use it so often and said that I might manage to use it somehow.

And since then, I made so many TAIYAKIs!

P1060219 (640x481)

The pan makes just 2 fish at a time, and the fish is a bit smaller than usual size. You can heat it up on gas cooker (maybe it wont be good with electric cooker), and it won’t stick as long as the pan is hot and oiled.

I make Anko from dry AZUKI beans sold in supermarket. So good that I can buy AZUKI beans at local supermarket nowadays.

Overnight soaking of beans and cooking of beans takes time, and cooking of those fish also take some time, but it is such a treat to eat freshly baked home made TAIYAKI!

P1060043 (640x481)

(Sep 2013)