Friday, July 10, 2009

shiratama an'mitsu

This is a nostalgia-inducing, cool, and colorful summer dessert, greatly loved over the generations. An'mitsu is basically a scoop of sweet bean paste with colorful (often canned) fruit, syrup, and sometimes cubes of kanten (gelatin made from agar-agar). Shiratama are small round dumplings made from shiratama-ko (glutenous rice flour). Together it becomes Shiratama An'mitsu, and it can be upgraded even further with the addition of a scoop of vanilla ice cream or whipped cream. Although the shiratama dumplings can be made from just water and glutenous rice flour, I prefer this recipe using tofu instead of water. It gives the dumplings greater depth of flavor and helps prevent hardening when chilled in the refrigerator.

basic ingredients for four servings (amounts are approximate)
silken tofu (kinugoshi), 200 grams (7 oz)
shiratama flour (shiratama-ko), 120 grams (4 oz)
can of fruit, syrup reserved.
sweet bean paste (an), 200 grams (7 oz)

If the tofu is sold loosely packed in water, drain the water and rinse the tofu gently. Place the tofu in a medium-sized bowl with the shiratama flour, and knead it together till well-blended and soft, but firm. In Japan, the right consistency for dumplings is often described as "the firmness of your earlobes." Keep some shiratama flour in reserve, and add it little by little till you get the right consistency.

Take spoonfuls of the dough and, using your fingers, roll them into one-inch balls. Flattening them a little will help them cook through faster. Place the balls in a pot of boiling water. Wait for 1~2 minutes after the balls rise to the surface before scooping them out and transferring them to a bowl of very cold water. When the balls have chilled, place several in a cool-looking glass dish. Top the dumplings with a scoop of sweet bean paste, and scatter fruit decoratively around everything. Spoon the reserved syrup over all. If you want, add a scoop of vanilla ice cream or whipped cream to the dish.

Variations: Add various things to the shiratama dough for both flavor and color. (1) For the version pictured above, I divided the dough, added crushed red perilla (shiso) leaves to one half, and powdered mugwort (yomogi) to the other half. This resulted in half pinkish shiso-flavored dumplings, and half green yomogi-flavored dumplings. (2) Add powdered green tea (matcha) to the dough for a different version of green-colored dumplings. (3) You can play with the syrup ingredients too. Kuromitsu, a dark syrup similar to molasses, can replace the syrup from the canned fruit. To see a version of shiratama an'mitsu that I made during cherry-blossom season, click here.