The Japanese love the four seasons of the year. Each one brings its own beauty and joy. Each season offers its own bounty of nature. While modern food growing and preservation practices allows for year eround availability, the Japanese still revere seasonal foods. There are dishes that are eaten only during specific times of year.
Bota mochi is one such dish. It is eaten on the Spring Equinox of each year. Unlike typical mochi that is pounded into a sticky mass, bota mochi rice grains are kept in tact. A combination of short grain white rice and mochigome (sweet glutinous rice) is cooked, formed into small balls and then coated with sweet red bean paste.
A very similar dish, if not the exact recipe, is called Ohagi and is eaten on the autumn Equinox. I researched the difference between bota mochi and ohagi and found several dissatisfying theories. Seems no one knew the answer. Some ventured that this dish is called bota mochi if it uses smoother anko while ohagi uses a more chunky anko. Others said it had something to do with the size of the rice balls.
But then, I finally discovered the answer to the mystery! The name Bota mochi comes from the word Botan or peony flower which blooms in the spring. The word hagi comes from the name of the Japanese clover bush which blooms in autumn.
Whenever you eat them, enjoy with a cup of matcha, or green tea! And be sure to check your calendar for the date of the Equinoxes as they are different each year. In 2012, the Spring Equinox will occur on March 20th.
Bota Mochi or Ohagi
1 cup short grain white rice
1 cup mochigome (sweet glutinous rice)
2 cups water
2 cups anko (sweet red bean paste)
Wash rice carefully by rinsing with clear water and draining away the cloudy water. Place both types of rice in an electric rice cooker. Add two cups of water. Allow the rice to sit and soak for one hour. Cook the rice. When the rice cooker signals the rice is cooked, allow the rice to steam without opening the lid for 20 minutes.
Fluff the rice with a wet shamoji or rice paddle. Using wet hands, form the rice into small balls. Coat each rice ball with anko.
For variation, you can coat the rice balls with other ingredients such as a blend of kinako (sweet soybean powder) and sugar or chopped nuts.