Shitamoe is a popular wagashi motif for early spring. The word shita means "under" or "underneath" and moe, "sprouting" or "shooting out." In the photo above, you see the green between the brown and white parts? It is symbolic of sprouts coming out from the dark, winter soil underneath the snow. Japanese people have loved the liveliness of grass sprouts as an early sign of spring and the word shitamoe has been widely used in Japanese traditional poetry.
If I'm not mistaken (because I forgot to ask at the store and now I'm writing this based on my own assumption), this wagashi is what they call ukishima. It is pretty close to Western cakes except it is steamed, not buttery and much moister because of the an (sweetened bean paste) mixed into the batter. (So maybe this could be a more beginner-friendly wagashi than typical anko-based ones?? I've heard many Westerneres saying that they couldn't stand the taste and texture of anko.)
I found an English recipe here, if you would like to give it a try. It seems to be a recipe for two-layered ukishima in white and green, but if things like shiroan (sweetened white bean paste) and matcha (powdered green tea) are not available, I guess you can use azuki-an (sweetened azuki bean paste) only and make brown ukishima like this photo (scroll down and click on the watashi photo to enlarge). But of course if you are more ambitious and can get (or make) shiroan, you can experiment on beautiful ones like this, this and this.
If you can't find joshinko (rice flour made from nonglutinous rice) called for in the recipe, you could substitute it with mochiko (rice flour made from glutinous rice) or just use wheat flour only, because I've seen ukishima recipes like that, too. It would make a little difference in the texture: mochiko may make it more chewy and sticky, and using wheat flour only may make it more cake-like?? But I don't think it would ruin the whole thing (hopefully).
* Wagashi by Shingetsu
Friday, February 29, 2008
Posted by obachan at 2/29/2008 10:09:00 PM