The third pairing of mochi and Japanese green tea. Perfect!
Yes, finally a mochi that goes perfectly with sencha. Yomogi (Japanese mugwort), julienned into tiny strings and mixed with the mochi dough, gives the mochi a clean, refreshing taste, which reminds me of the tip of a Vietnamese bánh ít or a bánh ít gai (*).
However, what struck me was the filling: red bean and sweet potato paste. The red bean is the main factor, the sweet potato is only at the top, closest to the doughy coat. The azuki sweetness subdues the fishiness (umami) of sencha, and the sencha bitterness subdues the sweetness. Is this why the Japanese use azuki for their desserts so often?
Why didn’t the sencha – matcha-mochi pair work as well? The matcha mochi also has azuki paste, but I think the orange juice and the walnuts distracted me. The yomogi clarifies the taste in a more floral and less bitter way than the matcha; and like saffron, sometimes a spice’s presence isn’t noticeable, but its absence would be. Anyways, this pair also shows that a simpler mochi can be a better mochi.
(*) Like mochi, bánh ít has a sticky rice dough with fillings, which can be sweet (coconut) or salty-sweet (mung bean paste). Unlike mochi, it’s all wrapped up in leaves, and it’s about 4 times bigger than a mochi. Shape-wise, mochi is most similar to bánh quy, whose green color (should) comes from pandan leaf. Similarly, the black color of bánh ít gai comes from the thorn leaf (ramie leaf), but the other ingredients are the same.
This post also appears on Tea and Mai
P.S. Sencha is interesting. It’s bitter at first and gets nutty later. It tastes odd at first because it’s not what you would expect from a drink, but the more you drink it, the more you’re attracted to it.
P.P.S. Yomogi mochi is also called “kusa mochi” (grass mochi). So Ms. Yuri Vaughn the mochi artist for Teance calls it “yomogi grass mochi”, which made me think that yomogi was a grass.