Sunday, November 7, 2010

Chi Chi Dango!

Between two people, you figure we would post more than once a month... apparently that's not the case! I guess we are just lazy, because we have been cooking/baking quite a bit and have a stack of pictures waiting to be uploaded. It seems we just need a bit more motivation...

Coincidentally, Leah has unofficially begun a posting competition with me, and while I am not very competitive (read: extraordinarily competitive but unwilling to admit it) I think I might find myself posting more frequently.

So with this post I present to you my newest creation!

It's a specific type of mochi that I grew up eating. Traditionally mochi (for those of you that might only recognize it as a way to eat ice cream) was a Japanese treat made of cooked rice that was pounded into a sticky mess. While some people still do make it traditionally, like my good friend Cheryl, it is an incredibly laborious process and the mochi only lasts for a few days before it becomes rock hard.

That being said, there are many types of mochi and one I grew up with in Hawaii was chi chi dango. It's a coconut mochi and has a delightful chewy and sticky consistency that lasts at least a week unrefrigerated. I'm having a hard time comparing it to anything else, so you'll just have to try it yourself!

While buying a small container of this used to be really expensive, making an absurdly large amount to share with friends and family is surprisingly easy and cheap - perfect for my non-existent funds and short attention span. (oooh, something shiny!)

Without any more preamble here is the recipe:
1 lb of glutinous rice flour (you can find this in your local asian or international store. I got my pound for $0.75!)
2 1/2 cups of sugar
1 tsp baking powder
2 cups water
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 can coconut milk
potato starch for dusting

Mix together the rice flour, sugar, and baking powder. In a separate bowl mix together the water, vanilla extract and coconut milk. Whisk the rice flour mixture into the wet one and make sure it's well combined.

It will look like you really didn't do anything except pour milk into a bowl, but don't be fooled!

Now pour the concoction into a greased 9x13 pan. If you don't have a 9x13 like me, then use the largest one you have and make sure it doesn't overflow when you pour it all in (while I may not cry over spilled milk, I do over spilled coconut milk).

Cover the pan with foil, tenting it a bit in the middle (I didn't and the foil decided to adhere to the top of my mochi) and bake at 350 Fahrenheit for an hour.

When you take it out it will not look like it is done, in fact, you will be convinced that you just made a huge vat of ugly white glop. You might not be entirely off. Just make sure that the mochi doesn't have any pools of that milky liquid on top and set the pan aside to cool overnight. If you turn it out too early it will not hold it's shape and turn into some sort of goopy mess, so be patient. Do not refrigerate it, refrigerating mochi does something strange to it and makes it stiffer than it should be (in a bad way).

Now take that potato starch and dust it over the surface that you plan to cut the mochi on. I know you may be wondering where to get potato starch... I honestly don't know. I inherited my large container of the stuff along with a tacky lamp when I moved into the apartment, and since it wasn't growing anything it must still be good... right?

Take a plastic knife (if you don't happen to have one just wrap cling wrap around a butter knife) and loosen the mochi a bit, then turn over onto the starched surface. Use the knife to cut the mochi into little pieces and lightly dust each piece with potato starch. The starch keeps it from sticking to EVERYTHING, which you may have noticed that it does. Keep the dusting light though so you don't take away from the awesome flavor. I starched my hands and rubbed them over the sides just enough to make sure it didn't stick.
By the end of all of this you should have enough to share with pretty much everyone (that is if you don't scarf down all of them like I am apt to do). It keeps for about a week at room temperature, just be sure to put it in a little baggie so it doesn't dry out completely.
These can by dyed pretty colors if you have food coloring (add it to the mixture pre-baking), or could even be filled with super tasty azuki beans (sweet Japanese beans). Whether or not you end up adding a little pizazz to the chi chi dango, it's pretty darn tasty!


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