When I think of food that “sparks joy”, to borrow the phrase of a well-known house organiser, I don’t think of multicoloured cakes or the smoke and dance of Mexican restaurant sizzlers. It’s the fun, playful chewiness of the Japanese glutinous flour rice cakes called mochi that I want. Often they’re sweet, filled with adzuki beans or peanuts, but they can also be savoury, as in today’s recipe. Here, they are fried like pancakes to give them a toasty, crisp exterior before being coated in a deeply flavourful and dark sesame sauce.
You’ll need glutinous rice flour which you can buy from most Asian grocery stores and online from the likes of Sous Chef, and black sesame seeds, which will likely be found in the same place, as well as larger supermarkets. This makes a lot of sauce, so keep any leftovers for up to a week and use as a dip for vegetables.
Prep 10 min
Cook 50 min
For the mochi
500g sweet potato, peeled and cut into chunks
200g glutinous rice flour
¾ tsp fine sea salt
4 spring onions, trimmed and finely sliced
For the sauce
100g black sesame seeds
½ tsp chilli flakes
1½cm piece fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
1 garlic clove, peeled and roughly chopped
3 tbsp rapeseed oil, plus extra for cooking
1½ tbsp light soy sauce
1½ tbsp rice vinegar
Put the sweet potato in a pan of water, cover with freshly boiled water, then set over a medium-high heat and simmer for about 15-20 minutes, until tender – the potato should feel soft and not resist a knife when poked. Drain into a colander, then put the colander of drained potatoes over the hot pan and leave to steam dry and cool down.
While the sweet potato is cooking, make the sauce. Heat a small frying pan on a low to medium heat until really hot. Add the sesame seeds, chilli, ginger and garlic, and stir-fry for six to eight minutes, taking care they don’t catch and burn, then take off the heat. Leave to cool, then tip into a blender and add the three tablespoons of oil, six tablespoons of water, the soy sauce and rice vinegar, and blend to a smooth, quite runny sauce (think tahini).
When the sweet potato is cool, tip it into a large bowl and add the flour, salt and spring onions. Knead with your hands until you have a smooth, firm and bouncy dough that’s similar in consistency to Play-Doh.
Drizzle some oil into a wide, non-stick frying pan, swirl around to coat the base, then set over a medium heat until very hot. Pull off a ball of the sweet potato dough (roughly a 10th of the total, or 60g), then roll and flatten it into a round between your palms, to make something about ½cm-thick x 10cm in diameter. Repeat with another couple of sweet potato balls, then place all three flat in the pan. Cook for four to five minutes, flipping them once halfway, until the tops and bottoms are nicely browned and the mochi are starting to puff up a bit in the middle. Slide out or remove with a spatula, and repeat with the rest of the dough. Serve warm or at room temperature, drizzled with the black sesame sauce.