Japanese Wagashi Sweets: Kusa Mochi and Yomogi Mochi
Although it is getting warmer and warmer day by day here in Niigata, Japan, today on the way home from work, I stopped by a supermarket and bought a traditional Wagashi sweet that represents Japan’s springtime.
Actually, what I purchased this time shown above is made up of 2 varieties of Japanese Mochi rice cake confections, “Mitarashi Dango Mochi (みたらし団子餅)” and “Kusa Mochi (草もち)”, and the latter Mochi treat, Kusa Mochi is associated with fresh verdure in the spring.
Kusa Mochi and Yomogi Mochi
In the name of the Japanese confection “Kusa Mochi (草もち)”, “Kusa (草)” means “grass” in Japanese, while “Mochi (もち or 餅)” refers to a glutinous rice cake. So the green color of the sweet treat comes from mixing grass with the rice cake.
The Japanese custom of eating rice cake with grass mixed in it is considered to have been transmitted from China over 1100 years ago.
Although in ancient times, Kusa Mochi got its green hue from the grass Jersey cudweed, a species of cottonweed, today when Japanese just say Kusa Mochi in daily life, that usually refers to “Yomogi Mochi (よもぎ餅)”.
“Yomogi (蓬 or よもぎ)” is the Japanese word for mugwort, and in fact this Kusa Mochi is the Yomogi Mochi kneaded with Japanese mugwort leaves from the Shinshu region around Nagano Prefecture.
Yomogi Mochi comes in 2 types. One only consists of sticky, chewy, sweet glutinous rice dough colored with mugwort, which is typically coated with Kinako roasted soybean flour. What I have now belongs to this type.
The other type of Yomogi Mochi has sweet Azuki red bean paste filled in the middle, as seen above.
Lastly, let’s check the ingredients of the Kusa Mochi I have now. According to the label pictured above, my Yomogi Mochi is made from maltose, sugar, glutinous rice flour, starch syrup, mugwort, Kinako roasted soybean flour, black sesame seeds, trehalose, emulsifier, and pH adjuster.
(Reference Page: Wikipedia 草餅 )