Rakanmochi: Wasanbon Sugar Sesame Mochi (羅漢餅)
Peko discovered this unusual and very tasty wagashi from Tawaraya Yoshitomi while working on the ayugashi article.
About the Mochi
Rakanmochi comes packed in dry wasanbon sugar which in addition to sweet has distinct butter and honey overtones and is very creamy on the tongue as it quickly melts. The mochi tastes and feels completely different from the wasanbon. The outside is somewhat tough and al dente, but inside it is moist and gooey. It is dark, reddish brown and rich and complex in taste. Sesame is prominent with a base taste that is nutty and molasses-like due to the traditional Japanese sweeteners used.
Rakanmochi is genteihin (限定品), or a limited product. It is only sold at Tawaraya Yoshitomi Karasuma location. At just 157 yen, it is a steal!
Rakanmochi Under Excavation
This image makes me think of images still in my mind from stone quarries.
About Wasanbon Sugar
Today, wasanbon is mainly used for high quality Japanese confections. Traditionally, sugar was an imported luxury that most people had never even seen, much less tasted. In Kyoto only a handful of wagashi stores were licensed to use sugar.
In the early 1700’s (Edo period) domestic sugar production was encouraged by the Tokugawa Shogunate. Of the main islands of Japan sugar cane would only grow in a few areas. In Shikoku, mainly Tokushima chikuto, or ‘thin’ sugar cane was cultivated and modern-day wasanbon sugar was produced there.
Chikuto sugar cane only grows 2 meters high and is not even as thick as a corn stalk. Therefore, it is called ‘thin’, as compared to sugar cane that grows in tropical areas.
Wasanbon, literally ‘Japanese three tray’ sugar as the purification process of pressing, washing and kneading was done three times on wooden trays. This labor intensive process is still done by hand but usually done 5 times rather than just 3.
In appearance wasanbon at first seems like Western powdered sugar, however it has slightly larger granules. The color is slightly golden rather than pure white, it looks and feels more natural than overrefined white sugar.
The taste of wasanbon is different than normal sugar. It has that natural flavor of raw sugar that has not been too refined, even though it is quite refined – washed, kneaded and pressed 5 times! It is not overly sweet. It is caramely and earthy, yet dry and crumbly.
When wasonbon arrives on the tongue it melts – it goes from dry and powdery to syrupy and creamy in an instant and then just vanishes into a sweetness on the tongue.
On the top it says, 羅漢餅 (rakanmochi).
Sorry, I didn’t research the story of the two characters on either side of the package.
Rakanmochi Straight Out of the Package
Rakanmochi ‘Excavation’ Process
Starting to breaking it apart
Rakanmochi ‘Excavation’ Process
It’s actually quite a bit of sugar which can be used for creating other yummies or just nibbled upon.
Rakanmochi – bite
Wasanbon – detail
Tawaraya Yoshitomi Karasuma Store 俵屋吉富 烏丸店
Location and Access: Approximately 5 minute walk from Imadegawa Station (Karasuma Subway Line).
Address: 602-0021 Kyoto-shi Kamigyo-ku Karasuma-dori Kamidachiuri-agaru Yanaginozushi-cho 331-2 (京都府京都市上京区烏丸通り上立売上ル柳図子町331-2)
www.kyogashi.co.jp/b-1.html (Japanese language only)