Cooking log 23 : Shiratama Zenzai

Stressed spell backward is desserts. I am not a big fan of sweets but once in a while the craving comes.

Shiratama translates to “white ball”, and obviously pointing to those white toppings. They were made with mochi flour and water, and i learned from an old lady back home to mix a little sugar and potato starch for bouncier texture. Interestingly, shiratama is consider summer dessert in Japanese while in Chinese culture the very same thing is called Tangyuan(“Soup ball…?”) and is a dish for WINTER solstice. I wonder how that happened.

I like shiratama enough to make it from scratch at home. I recalled an interesting conversation during university days with a senior from master class. She could not understand why me or anyone would like shiratama because it is chewy and…tasteless. So the effort spent on chewing has no gain. That was an interesting perspective and hardcore engineer-ish. For me i like the texture to start and quite enjoy the subtle taste mochi rice, pairing with sweet sauce or bean paste that comes with it.

Making shiratama consists of adding water to mochi flour, roll the dough into balls then boil them until they float. Nothing gets easier than that. Small tricks here, if you like soft and sticky texture similar to mochi then put them straight into red bean soup after cooked, however if you like bouncy texture putting them through an ice bath after boiled.

Red bean soup is a no brainer as well. Rinse the beans then start cooking in water about 4~5 times the volume of the beans straight away. Red beans do not absorb water well without temperature increase hence soaking them in cold water for long hours would not help much. Next thing to remember is to not add sugar until the beans are thoroughly cooked and softened, and while adding sugar do it slowly in small portion until desired sweetness. Adding too much sugar at once with increase the concentration of the soup drastically causing water to be pull out of the bean and result in hard core in the beans. For seasoning I used cane sugar bought back from Mexico. I find natural sugar gives more depth to taste than white refined sugar could and always love to use them when possible.

For someone working as an engineer in this highly industrialized world, i still find beauty in doing things the old way. It might take more time and effort, but a home brewed hearty soup will always beat a instant bowl from microwave for me.

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