Ichigo means strawberry in Japanese, and Ichigo Daifuku is a favorite mochi treat. A large fresh strawberry is coated with some an (red bean paste) and then wrapped with white mochi. It is absolutely wonderful! Of course, that is the traditional way Ichigo Daifuku is made. Those, like my husband who do not care for an, might prefer it without the sweet red bean paste. It is still yummy that way.
But to make this even more special, I like to tint the white mochi a pretty pink, not with food coloring, but with some fresh strawberry syrup! It isnot terribly traditional but it punches up the berry flavor in a fantastic way.
Most people do not go through the labor of making mochi by pounding it anymore nor do they own electric mochi-makers. If you do, great! Proceed with your own mochi. But I do not suggest buying mochi to use in this recipe unless you are certain that the mochi is extremely fresh. It hardens or dries quickly and will not form nicely around the strawberry.
By using this version, you can make your mochi slightly softer for easier forming and better eating.
2 cups mochiko flour (sweet rice flour)
2 cups water
1 cup granulated sugar
ľ cup fresh strawberry syrup*
1 1/2 cups anko or tsubushian (sweet red bean paste), canned or homemade
12 fresh strawberries (large ones, if possible)
2 cups cornstarch OR potato starch (katakuriko)
several drop red food coloring*
In small bowl, blend together cornstarch OR potato starch with a few drop of red food coloring to tint the starch a light pink. Use the back of a spoon to incorporate the coloring but do not add so much as to liquefy the starch; it should still be powdery. Sprinkle this on a clean work space, cutting board or marble countertop.
Wash the fresh strawberries and carefully pat each one dry with a paper towel. Set aside. Do not hull.
In a medium-size pot, bring the water and granulated sugar to a boil. Remove from heat and mix in the mochiko flour all at once, stirring until blended. Turn flame to medium and cook mochi mixture for about ten minutes, stirring constantly to avoid lumps. Pour this hot mochi mixture on the tinted potato starch and allow to cool slightly.
When the mochi is cool enough to be handled with your hands, take a fresh strawberry and spread the tip end with tsubushian or an and continue to about ĺ up the berry. Then, pinch off a small bit of the warm mochi, roll it into a ball.
Here is where there are differences in shaping the ichigo daifuku. You can flatten the mochi in your palm and then place the an-covered strawberry into the center, tipside down and cover the entire berry with the mochi (in which case, it needs to be hulled) but I like to let three layers show. So, I simply place a mochi ball in a cupcake liner, then I gently push in the an-covered strawberry, tipside down into the pink mass. This makes a very pretty presentation.
Alternatively, you can push the berry hullside down into the pink mochi and bring the sides up and around the sides of berry and let the tip poke out. You decide how best to wrap the strawberry for the prettiest appearance. Some berries are very large. In California, our strawberries are huge and after I wrapped them in an and mochi, each ichigo daifuku was too big to eat without a fork and knife! They were the size of tangerines! That is why I prefer to let some of the berry poke through. I surmised that another option would be to cut the berries in half. Iíll experiment with that soon.
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
6 large fresh or frozen strawberries
Wash and hull each berry. Press them through a fine sieve, being careful that the seeds do not go through. In a small pot, bring the water and sugar to a simmer, stirring to avoid crystallization. Remove from the heat. Add the strawberry juice/puree to the water and sugar mixture and stir to combine. Allow to cool completely before using.
*Traditional Ichigo Daifuku does not use strawberry syrup or red food coloring. Omit if you prefer the classic version.