Had it not been for dear Lisa of Lisa's Kitchen, who selected rice as her current theme for this month's No Croutons Required, I'm not sure that I would have landed on this recipe in any hurry. I was specifically hunting down something unusual. By the looks of this, I think I was successful. It did, however, take me endless hours of research, including a stumble onto what have instantly become my favorite You Tube tutorials for Japanese food preparation. Francis, the charming, intelligent, and patient host of the channel, does not yet feature instruction for shiruko, a sweet slurp of red azuki bean broth decorated with a floating raft of grilled mochi, but you can find several simple and reliable recipes from Japanese Food About.com, Taste of Zen, and Dosankodebbie's Blog. Each is slightly different, but all include the essential traditional ingredients: red beans and white rice cakes.
For slightly more pizazz, and to minimize the very elastic chew of the mochi, I opted to grill each hard rice rectangle in a square waffle iron cell for 15 minutes. The texture was crispy, crunchy, and light, not unlike puffed rice. I finished each bowl with the lightest rub of dried green mugwort from my fingertips. Mugwort is a distinctively hued herb not unlike green matcha tea, that is used to blend into soft mochi and noodles for novel color and subtle aroma and flavor. A member of the artemesia family, mugwort has many culinary and medicinal uses throughout Europe and the Far East, and has been ascribed with magical properties.
While I cannot vouch for its fanciful characteristics, I do believe that a steaming bowl of shiruko can comfort the soul and lift the spirits. If that isn't magic, I don't know what is.
Shiruko - Adapted from the Taste of Zen recipe, with the addition of my own touches.
2 - 7 1/2 - 8 ounce cans cooked and sweetened red azuki beans* (they should not be drained nor rinsed)
6 cups cold, filtered water
Granulated sugar (optional to taste)
4 kirimochi* (hard rectangular rice cakes)
Pinch of salt
A few pinches of dried mugwort* (optional)
Combine azuki beans in a large saucepan with water and salt. Taste for sweetness. Add more sugar if not sweet enough to your preferences. Bring saucepan contents to slow simmer over low heat. Skim off any foam that might collect on the surface with a mesh skimmer.
In meantime, heat square waffle iron according to manufacturer's instructions. When ready, place 1 kirimochi carefully in very center of each waffle cell. It will take about 15 minutes before they are flattened, shaped, and crusty. Remove to a plate to let cool before separating.
Divide hot bean broth into 4 bowls. Top each with 1 waffle mochi. Carefully spoon some azuki beans onto waffle. Pinch a touch of dried mugwort on each waffle and in the soup. Serve immediately with chopsticks, and a spoon to collect any leftovers.
* Kirimochi; azuki beans, dried, canned sweetened and unsweetened; and powdered mugwort are easily found in better Japanese markets. A suitable Western substitute for the azuki would be canned light red kidney beans or small red or pink beans with at least 1 cup sugar. Cooked white sushi rice could be used in place of the kirimochi.
This recipe is for Lisa and Jackie of Tinned Tomatoes, the creators and co-hosts of NCR, this very long-running event featuring vegetarian soup and salad recipes.
I'm also sending this to Simona, hosting MLLA 31, another long-running and popular event. Although NCR just closed for this month, Simona will be welcoming your legume recipes through the 31st.
And I've just learned of another fun event by Deb of Kahakai Kitchen. Her Souper (Soup, Salad and Sammies) Sundays run every week and are a great and easy way to share a bite that you've probably prepared more often than you think. Who doesn't make at least one soup, or salad, or sandwich in a week's time?
Been There, Done That ~
Chinese Steamed Red Bean Buns
Agedofu with Dipping Sauce
Japanese Corn Cream Soup
Other People's Eats ~
Red Bean Mochi from Christine's Recipes
Chewy and Sweet Red Bean Mochi from Eating Out Load
Moffles from Just Hungry