Friday, September 9, 2011

moon-viewing festival (more rabbit manju)

The Tsuki-mi (moon viewing) celebration is fast approaching, and while debating whether to bother making a pile of the traditional tsuki-mi dango (moon viewing dumplings), I came across these adorable rabbit-shaped steamed manju being promoted as an alternative treat for the occasion. In the Japanese mind, rabbits are closely associated with the moon, as it is not a man's face, but a rabbit pounding mochi that we see when we look up at the full moon on a clear autumn evening.

I know we covered rabbit confections aplenty in honor of the year of the rabbit, but the moon viewing festival is another thing entirely, and rabbit manju is a nice change from the simple, round (i.e. moon-shaped) mochi dumplings that are usually displayed (and eaten) on this occasion. I ordered the rabbit manju shown here from a wagashi confectionery called Piyonta in Kyoto. The box that arrived contained six manju, two each of three different flavors: "plain," "chocolate," and "green tea."

According to my trusty tongue (and the ingredients list printed on the box), the outer layer of these manju is made with wheat flour. The "plain" flavor has a creamy tan-colored outer shell and creamy tan-colored filling flecked with chopped chestnuts and red azuki beans. The "chocolate" flavor has a dark brown outer shell and a light-brown filling flecked with almonds and chocolate. The "green tea" flavor has a green outer shell and smooth green filling, each colored and flavored with powdered green tea (matcha). In each case, and regardless of the color, the filling is White bean An-based.

Further complexity of flavor and a gentle sweetness result from the addition of egg yolk, butter, and sweetened condensed milk, which gives it the familiar fragrance and flavor of Western-style cakes and cookies. I've noticed that sweetened condensed milk pops up more and more often in wagashi ingredients these days.

Someday I'll try to reproduce this wheat-flour manju and post a recipe, but not today. I lost most of the photos I took, and didn't realize it until the manju were eaten up and it was too late to take more photos. Sorry about that. By the way, these manju were delicious! : )

While you're here, check out the rice-flour based bunny manju and bunny mochi recipes too!