Friday, February 29, 2008

Sweet Seasons / February 2008 - Shitamoe -

Shitamoe -- Grass Sprouts (under the snow) by Shingetsu

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



Piccola said...

it's a pretty wagashi :)

K and S said...

looks lovely! Happy Girl's Day, Obachan!

Marcela said...

Spring is in the air... :) Beautiful wagashi... I'd love to try the recipes someday, but surely I'll need some help.

Makoto said...

WAA! The sight of the wagashi always makes me happy, and this one is a really nice symbol of Spring.... I wish I could make them or even get them from somewhere... Patience is a virtue when making wagashi... learnt that when trying to make daifuku. @_@

 gmirage said...

hmmm hmm yummmmm---lol.

Anonymous said...

gorgeous, it looks just like a sprout in the garden.. lovely! This post was fascinating!

Rei said...

Ooooooh, beginner friendly wagashi. I like the sound of that.
Thank you for the recipe a chado(?) school, Urasenki of Seattle (my hometown) :) I have a question about the quantity of matcha, if I do not have a chashaku, is it about 4tsp.? And amanatto is that sweet natto or just any bean sweetened, like azuki? Some Japanese food items are hard to find even with Uwajimaya in town...still looking for keshi no mi...finally found ma kombu on line (very expensive though).

obachan said...

Yep, it is :)

K & S
Same to you.

Actually I might try making this wagashi myself in the near future. If I did, I would probably simplify the recipe and post about it with photos.

Yeah, there seem to be many ways to learn the value of patience, right? ;)

Yyyyyyeeeeeee---sssss!! :D

Thanks. :)

Woops! I didn't read the recipe carefully and didn't know until now that they mentioned chashaku instead of regular measuring spoon. Four teaspoons sounds a bit too much. I've never seen a matcha dessert recipe that uses more than 2 tsp. of matcha, so I would recommend to use 2 tsp or less matcha for your first experiment.

About amanatto: This posttells you what they are and how to make them at home, but I guess just any beans simmered in sugar would be fine... or even diced sweet potatoes would do. Or dried fruit would be nice, too. I've read about ukishima with dried cranberries or figs (though it was not matcha version of ukishima). This is sort of like a pound cake. Don't be afraid to be creative.

Anonymous said...

Your post explains the chocolate cake in the Japanese cookbook I'm studying. The recipe seems quite similar to your cake, but the author does not give much explanation of the origins of such sweets. The first time I made the chocolate cake, I got some yolk in the egg whites so they did not whip up enough and the cake was very heavy. In my book, she also has a recipe for an adzuki bean cake, and one for a kabocha cake. She mentions that you can make a 2 color cake as well. I think that if you can't find joshinko, you could use wheat flour, but be sure it's cake or pastry flour (low protien).

Anonymous said...

Very pretty Obachan. I always admire your cooking even though I know you're very busy. Thank you for sharing

Rei said...

Thank you Obachan for your suggestions on measuring matcha and the link for homemade amanatto.
Wagashi to washoku wo anata ni tetsudatte moraimashita. Domo arigatou!

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Absolutely fabulous!



obachan said...

Enjoy your Japanese cookbook study. :D

Thanks. Yeah, I’m busy, but no one cooks for me and eating out tends to be expensive, so I have to cook at least once a day. I didn’t make this wagashi myself, though.

Do itashi mashite. ;)

Thanks! :)

Anonymous said...

I think you could make a nice variation of this like a brownie; dark chocolate on the bottom, pistachio nuts for the 'grass' and then a white chocolate one for the top. The trick would be to not make it as sweet as normal brownie, i think. The top would also crisp up nicely and look like rough snow!

obachan said...

Great idea! :D