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All About Kuzumochi: What Is It?

A bowl of kuzumochi topped with kinako roasted soybean flour.

All About Kuzumochi: What Is It?

You’ve probably heard of mochi, but have you heard of kuzumochi? Kuzumochi is a special type of mochi that doesn’t always have the same round shape as mochi, but definitely has the same soft, jelly-like texture. When it comes to kuzumochi, there’s a lot to learn, so if you want to know what sets the wagashi apart from other desserts, keep reading on!

History of Kuzumochi

Before you start stocking up on kuzumochi for your pantry, you need to know what it is and where it comes from, first. The first thing to note about kuzumochi is that it’s not technically mochi, due to the fact that it doesn’t contain any rice. Instead, kuzumochi treats are a jelly-like block made from kuzuko starch powder, water, and sugar, and make for a clear, gelatinous bite with little flavor. There are a few different kinds of desserts that fall under the “kuzumochi” moniker, but most often kuzumochi refers to a treat that’s been made with starch from the kudzu plant. In some places, you might even see it spelled kudzumochi.

 Hand picking up a piece of kuzumochi.

Kuzumochi is said to have been discovered over 150 years ago in Kawasaki Daishi when a barrel of rain-damaged wheat flour had separated. It is believed that the person that found the barrel removed the gluten from the barrel, and began experimenting with the new starch before creating a mochi-like treat that would later be named kuzumochi by a local priest.

Kuzumochi vs. Mochi

Now that you have an understanding of its background, here’s why kuzumochi is not considered to be a part of the mochi family. The soft, round mochi you’re most likely familiar with is a Japanese rice cake made from a short-grain japonica glutinous rice called mochigome, as well as cornstarch, water, and sugar. Though the two desserts share the latter two ingredients, kuzumochi does not contain rice – a major ingredient in mochi – and therefore can’t be classified as a type of mochi.

Kuzumochi Ingredients

Interested in making a batch of kuzumochi for yourself? Besides water and sugar, there are two key ingredients you should familiarize yourself with before you begin. Those ingredients are kuzu starch, and kinako.

Kuzu Starch

As mentioned, kuzu starch (sometimes stylized as kudzu starch) is starch that originates from the kudzu root. Kuzu starch is coveted for its thickening agents, which is why it makes for such an important ingredient in kuzumochi. Moreover, the reason why kuzumochi contains kuzu starch and not a different ingredient like arrowroot or cornstarch is because it doesn’t have the same starchy taste as other thickeners, and it takes on a unique translucent appearance when cooked.

Kinako

Though it doesn’t play a key role in the making of kuzumochi, kinako often serves as a kuzumochi garnish to give it an extra pop of flavor. If you didn’t know, kinako is a fine flour powder that’s made from ground up soybeans, and is a popular ingredient in Japanese desserts like mochi. Of course, because it’s made from soybeans, kinako isn’t exactly bursting with sugary sweetness, but it’s known to give desserts and dishes a delicious roasted, nutty flavor.

When incorporating kinako into your kuzumochi dish, all you have to do is sprinkle the finely ground powder on top at the very end, and your dessert is ready to be served. 

How To Make Kuzumochi

A plate of three different kuzumochi flavors.

Now that you’re an expert on all things kuzumochi, it’s time to start making your own! To make the jelly-like dessert at home, here’s what you’ll need:

  • ¼ cup of brown sugar
  • 3 ounces of kuzu starch
  • 1 ½ tablespoons of granulated sugar
  • Kinako powder

Once you’ve gathered the goods, pour the brown sugar and ¼ cup of water in a saucepan over medium heat. This will create a brown sugar syrup mixture – bring the mixture to a boil, and stir often until the sugar has dissolved. Then, transfer the syrup to a bowl and let it cool to room temperature.

Next, mix the kuzu starch with sugar and 2 ½ cups of water in a saucepan over medium heat. stirring continuously. The mixture should begin to thicken after about three minutes. When it does, reduce the heat to low and continue stirring. After another three more minutes or so, the kuzumochi will become transparent, and should easily release from the bottom of the pan. At this time, you may transfer the kuzumochi to a loaf pan. Once transferred, smooth the top of the dessert with a wet spatula and place it in the fridge to cool for one hour.

After the hour is up, cut your kuzumochi into pieces, sprinkle the kinako powder on top to compliment the gelatinous dessert, and dig in!

There’s so much to like about kuzumochi, but the best part is probably its jelly texture and chewy sensation. If you don't want to cook, we sell a tasty kuzumochi set that comes with two delicious flavors!

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