I love just about everything about traveling in Japan, and sampling various regional foods ranks high on my list of things to do whenever I arrive in a new location. (To be honest, I seek them out whether or not I’ve been to the place before.) Almost every city has a dish or ingredients–often more than one–for which the place is known, and each location takes pride in preparing, serving, and sharing these local and regional treats.
In Tokushima, a city on the island of Shikoku (the third-southernmost of Japan’s four major islands), the regional specialty is taki no yakimochi, a griddle-cooked mochi cake filled with sweetened red bean paste.
Mochi is made by pounding glutinous rice in a mortar and pestle until it forms a sweet, gelatinous paste. To make taki no yakimochi, balls of mochi are filled with bean paste and pressed in a mold to form the traditional chrysanthemum shape and then fried on a griddle until warm and slightly crispy.
The shop I visited specialized in taki no yakimochi, and made them in three different flavors: plain, matcha (powdered green tea) and kuro goma (black sesame)–which happens to be my favorite flavor for just about anything. I opted for a set that included all three flavors, as well as a bowl of hot, frothy matcha.
Traditionally, matcha is not sweetened. Its rich, grassy taste is a delicious complement to the warm, slightly crispy taki no yakimochi. Since the cakes are fairly sweet, the matcha balances their flavor nicely.
taki no yakimochi came with an unusual “double fork” (take a closer look at the photo at the top of this post for more detail) — it had four prongs, arranged in two layers, with a space between them exactly wide enough to hold the taki no yakimochi. Instead of spearing the cakes as you would with a traditional fork, you slip the prongs on either side of the cake and lift it, whole, to take a bite. Ingenious!
Since my hyakumeizan travels will take me back to Shikoku later this year, I’m looking forward to enjoying more taki no yakimochi, and other regional specialties, while I’m there!
Have you ever sampled taki no yakimochi, or any other regional specialties in Japan? If so, which one is your favorite?