Ohagi (Botamochi) おはぎ (ぼたもち)

OHAGI / BOTAMOCHI ­— Made with glutinous rice and red bean paste, these Japanese sweet rice balls are offered to one’s ancestors and eaten during the spring and autumn equinoxes in Japan. They are called botamochi in spring and ohagi in autumn. photo by Namiko Chen

Made with glutinous rice and red bean paste, these Japanese sweet rice balls are offered to one’s ancestors and eaten during the spring and autumn equinoxes in Japan. They are called botamochi in spring and ohagi in autumn.

Growing up in Japan, I remember we had a lot of cultural, seasonal and sometimes religious celebrations that often came with specific foods.

Ohagi or botamochi is one of those special foods we enjoyed during the spring and autumn equinoxes every year. They are sweet rice balls filled or coated with red bean paste. Today, I’ll share little cultural tidbits of this traditional sweet, along with the recipe!

What Is Ohagi (Botamochi)?
These sweet rice balls are usually made with glutinous rice, and sometimes rice and red bean paste.

The rice balls are formed into the shape of a small cylinder and covered with red bean paste on the outside. There are also variations where the rice balls are coated with sweetened soybean flour or sweetened ground black sesame and stuffed with red bean paste on the inside.

They are commonly eaten during Ohigan (お彼岸), a Buddhist holiday during both spring and autumn equinoxes.

Is There A Difference Between Ohagi Or Botamochi?
You’ve probably noticed that I keep calling these sweet rice balls by two names — ohagi and botamochi. That’s because we call these rice balls different terms in spring and autumn.

In autumn, they are called ohagi (おはぎ), named after the autumn flower, hagi (萩 bush clover).

In spring, they are called botamochi (ぼたもち), named after the spring flower, botan (牡丹 peony).

Regionally, people may grow up calling it just by one name, but they are both essentially the name.

How To Make Ohagi (Botamochi)
Unlike some mochi recipes on my blog that require hard-to-find rice flours, this ohagi (botamochi) recipe is rather simple. All you need is Japanese glutinous rice (please use a short-grain variety), Japanese short-grain rice and red bean paste. Here are the three steps to make these rice balls:

Cook glutinous rice and rice — Cook glutinous rice and rice together in the rice cooker (or whatever you use to cook rice).

Pound the rice — Partially pound the cooked rice.

Shape and fill the rice balls — Shape the pounded rice into balls and coat them with red bean paste. For the other two variations, fill the rice balls with sweet red bean paste and coat them with either sweetened soybean flour (kinako) or sweetened ground black sesame seeds.

5 Tips To Make Ohagi (Botamochi)
1. Combine Glutinous Rice and Rice

Ohagi (botamochi) are often made with only glutinous rice (sweet rice). However, I do not recommend using just glutinous rice. As these sweet rice balls get cold or less “fresh,” the texture will become hard and not so chewy.

Mixing it with regular rice helps to keep the texture softer and chewier.

2. Pre-measure Anko (Red Bean Paste)

Once the cooked rice is pounded, it’s best to shape it while the rice is still warm. If you pre-measure the paste and roll it into balls ahead of time, you can just grab the paste and stuff in the rice balls quickly.

3. Partially Pound the Rice

One of the unique features of ohagi (botamochi) is the noticeable rice texture when you bite into it. Unlike other similar mochi sweets where fine rice flours are used, the rice is pounded partially, not mashed or kneaded all the way. This half-pounding technique is called “hangoroshi,” literally a half kill (半殺し).

4. Use Plastic Wrap to Thinly Spread the Red Bean Paste

Plastic wrap helps tremendously when you need to spread a thin layer of red bean paste around the rice balls. I’ve tried using my bare hand instead of plastic wrap, but I think you need a lot of practice to make it look presentable.

5. Save and Reapply Black Sesame and Soybean Flour

Within 10-15 minutes after you coat the rice balls with black sesame seeds and soybean flour, you will notice the color of those ohagi (botamochi) get darker and spotty.

This happens because the moisture in the rice is released to the coating. Therefore, it’s best to keep some coating and reapply it right before serving.

How To Store and Enjoy Ohagi
As they are made of both glutinous rice and rice, ohagi is not suitable to store in the refrigerator. The temperature will only turn the rice balls hard and lose the soft, chewy texture. Therefore, it’s best to keep them in a cool place and enjoy them as soon as possible (a half-day to 12 hours).

March might be cool, but September can still be warm and the food may go bad faster. In that case, I recommend storing them in the refrigerator, but cover the container with a thick towel to protect from cold air. They should be kept cool, ideally.

You can also freeze ohagi for up to one month. When you’re ready to eat, defrost overnight in the refrigerator.

To bring back the ideal texture, ohagi should be reheated gently in the microwave to warm or room temperature for you to enjoy.

Ohagi (botamochi) are not so sweet and they go really well with green tea. Even though I don’t observe the religious ceremony, I still make these for my family twice a year, around both the spring and autumn equinoxes. In my house, food culture is pretty important and I hope my children will remember my sweet Japanese rice balls twice a year.

Ohagi (Botamochi)
Made with glutinous rice and red bean paste, these Japanese sweet rice balls are offered to one’s ancestors and eaten during the spring and autumn equinoxes in Japan. They are called botamochi in spring and ohagi in autumn.

Prep Time: 1 hr
Cook Time: 1 hr
Total Time: 2 hrs
Servings: 24 pieces (roughly 24-26)

Ingredients
For Making Ohagi (Botamochi)
2 rice cooker cups sweet rice/glutinous rice (mochigome) www.justonecookbook.com/sweet-rice-glutinous-rice/ (180 ml cup x 2 = 360 ml)
1 rice cooker cup uncooked Japanese short-grain rice www.justonecookbook.com/premium-japanese-short-grain-rice/ (180 ml cup)
600 ml water
1 tsp kosher/sea salt (I use Diamond Crystal; use half for table salt) (to make saltwater)

For Black Sesame Coating
6 Tbsp toasted black sesame seeds www.justonecookbook.com/sesame-seed/
2 Tbsp sugar

For Soybean Flour Coating
6 Tbsp kinako (soybean flour) www.justonecookbook.com/kinako/
2 Tbsp sugar

For Red Bean Paste
Filling and Coating
1.3 lb red bean paste (anko) (I use my homemade anko recipe) www.justonecookbook.com/anko-red-bean-paste/

Japanese Ingredient Substitution: If you want substitutes for Japanese condiments and ingredients, visit www.justonecookbook.com/ingredient-substitution-for-japanese-cooking/.

To read the full recipe, visit https://www.justonecookbook.com/ohagi-botamochi.

 

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