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My dad was able to do a bit of research a few years ago and found some distant relatives who heard rumors about my grandfather's real birth mom. The story is that she was a schoolteacher when Japan invaded Taiwan in the late 19th century. My dad believes that my real great-grandmother (the teacher) had an affair with the principal at the time, who was Japanese. The Taiwanese teacher became pregnant with the principal's child and eventually gave him up for adoption. This child was my grandfather.
It makes me sad to hear that my grandfather was given up for adoption, but the story makes sense to me. My grandfather learned Japanese very quickly and speaks it fluently. He definitely looks Japanese. And whenever I walk into a Japanese restaurant or grocery store, the Japanese staff and coworkers always attempt to speak to me in their native language. According to my relatives, I also look Japanese.
I do love Japanese food, so this story is plausible. In fact, one of my favorite Japanese sweets is mochi. It's a soft, pillowy and sticky ball that is filled with red bean paste and covered in corn starch. There are other flavors of mochi, but red bean is my favorite. I never thought of making these on my own until I saw Heather's guest post on Darla's website. This mochi was made in the microwave (!) and looked very do-able.
Since I had leftover red bean paste from my Chinese red bean mooncakes, I wanted to try my hand at mochi. It was much easier than I expected. I even tried making some green tea mochi ice cream, but those were a big fail. I didn't pinch the mochi skin fast enough and my ice cream melted everywhere. Boo. Maybe next time. Either way, my mochi were just as good as the ones I buy in the store. They had a perfect chewy and sticky texture, and the red bean paste filling was just perfect.
What would make me even happier right now would be to get some closure on my family's history. I hope to know more about my ancestors one day. Until then, I'll believe the story that my dad told me above.
Red bean paste mochi
- 1 and 1/2 cups glutinous rice flour (you can find this at your local Asian grocery store)
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2/3 cups water
- 2 drops red or green food coloring (optional)
- 1/2 cup cornstarch (I only used 1/4 cup and it was plenty)
- Red bean paste (I buy this brand from my local Asian grocery store)
In a medium or large microwave-safe bowl, combine the glutinous rice flour, sugar, water and food coloring (if using). Use a very sturdy spatula and mix everything together until no lumps remain. The mixture will resemble glue.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and microwave for 2 minutes.
Remove the plastic wrap and stir the mixture with your spatula. It will be very sticky and difficult to stir, but do your best.
Re-cover the bowl with the plastic wrap and microwave for 1 minute. When you remove the bowl from the microwave and take off the plastic wrap, the mochi skin will deflate. If it doesn't, recover the bowl and microwave for an additional minute.
Spread the cornstarch over a flat surface and make sure that you cover your hands with cornstarch. Transfer the hot mochi mixture onto the cornstarch surface and gently stretch the dough with your hands. Don't try using a rolling pin (trust me - I tried) because it will not work. Cut the flattened mochi dough into 10-12 pieces.
Stretch each individual mochi piece until it is flat and resembles an oval or a circle. Fill the center with a spoonful of red bean paste. Bring the sides of the mochi piece towards the center and pinch to seal.
If the mochi is too sticky on the outside, roll it in the cornstarch until it is no longer sticky.
Mochi tastes best on the day they are made but can be wrapped individually in plastic wrap and stored at room temperature or in the refrigerator for a few days. They will start hardening each day, but you can heat them in the microwave for about 20-30 seconds to soften them a bit.
Yield: About 10-12 mochi
Source: Bakingdom; adapted from Vegan Yum Yum