Ohagi Coarse Mochi Coated with Sweet Azuki Bean Paste
"Higan" is a Buddhist service that happens every spring and fall. It is customary to dedicate ohagi (a rice ball coated with sweetened red beans) in Buddhist homes.
Photographed by Akane Nakamura
Calorie count is for a piece.
Ingredients (Makes about 20)
- 300 g azuki beans
- 300 g granulated sugar
- 300 g glutinous rice
Rinse the azuki beans thoroughly with running water. Place them in a thick-walled pot with 600 ml of water and heat over medium heat. When it comes to a boil, add 200 ml of water. When it comes to a boil again, simmer for 2 min and remove from heat, then strain.
This will make it easier for the water to get through the skins of the beans.
Wash the pot and add 800 ml of water and the strained beans, then heat over medium-high heat. When it comes just to a simmer, add some water to stop the simmer; repeat this for 7–10 min, in order to remove unwanted flavors from the beans.
You will probably need about 800 ml of water, added in 3–5 portions.
When the water is red and cloudy, strain the azuki beans and briefly rinse. Wash the pot again and add 800 ml of water and the strained beans, then heat over medium-high heat. When it comes to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for 30–40 min.
This process removes tannins and other unpleasant-tasting compounds. When the water becomes fairly red and cloudy, that is your sign that it is time to strain the azuki beans. Simmer the beans over low heat, so that they are only moving slightly. In order to keep the water level high enough to cover the beans, add small amounts of water from time to time.
Use a spatula or other implement to scoop up some of the beans and check them. When they become tender enough to crush without resistance, cover the beans with waxed paper and reduce heat to as low as possible, simmering for 30-40 min without adding any water. Tilt the pot very gradually to pour off the water. If you find that the beans have cooked enough to fall apart when pouring off the water, line a strainer with cheesecloth and carefully strain, then return the beans to the pot.
Covering the beans with waxed paper will prevent them from moving as they cook. Pay close attention to the heat level as you simmer.
Add about half of the granulated sugar, then heat over high heat. With a spatula, slowly mix the sugar in. When the sugar has integrated and the moisture has cooked off, add the rest of the sugar and mix in. Finally, add a pinch of salt and remove from heat.
By scooping it up with a spatula and dropping it back into the pan, you can check at a glance how firm the bean paste is: when it very briefly forms a mound, that is your sign that it is time to remove it from heat. Ideally it should still feel a little soft.
Scoop a small amount at a time into a tray, then spread it out and let it cool.
Spreading out the bean paste will help it cool faster. When it cools, pack it tightly into a container and place it in the refrigerator.
Rinse the glutinous rice with plenty of water and strain, then add to the pot of your rice cooker. Add 420 ml of water and let rest for 3 hours. Add 1/3 tsp of salt, stir well, and cook.
When the rice is finished cooking, remove the pot from the rice cooker and use a pestle or other similar implement to half-mash the rice.
Mash the glutinous rice until about half of it is still intact.
Place the mashed rice on a cheesecloth and roll into a log, then use a spatula or other implement to cut it into pieces, then roll each into a ball.
Rolling the rice into a log will make it easier to separate it into even pieces.
Take each of the balls of mashed rice and wrap it in bean paste. You will generally want a roughly 3:2 ratio of bean paste to rice for each.
You can wrap the ohagi by hand, or you can use plastic wrap for a simpler way to do it. Place bean paste on the plastic wrap and make a circle about 6 cm in diameter, then place a ball of mashed rice on top and bring the edges of the plastic wrap together to squeeze it. Any excess bean paste will keep if stored in the freezer in a foodstragebag; let thaw in the refrigerator before use.