Monday, June 1, 2015

Kusa Mochi Azuki Monaka Ice Cream Sandwich

Monaka is a popular Japanese sweet (和菓子 wagashi) traditionally "made of azuki bean filling sandwiched between two thin crisp wafers made from sticky-rice." 
(Source: TORAYA, "Types of Wagashi")

The azuki paste can also be replaced with ice cream for a delicious Japanese-style ice cream sandwich. Monaka are one of my favourite types of ice cream treats because they are relatively clean to eat and easy to split for sharing (important since my husband and I usually share food).

The standard ice cream monaka has a plain wafer and vanilla ice cream. There are many different brands, but my personal favourite is Lotte's "Monaou." The name combines the words monaka (モナカ) and ou (=king) and means "Monaka King."
Monaou Monaka Ice Cream モナ王
 Monaou Monaka Ice Cream モナ王
 Monaou Monaka Ice Cream モナ王

Recently, however, I discovered a Kusa Mochi Azuki Monaka--intriguing as it combined two traditional Japanese sweets (kusa mochi and monaka) with an ice cream twist.
Kusa Mochi Azuki Monaka Ice Cream 草もち風あずきモナカ
(Mochi is a type of "rice cake" made by pounding sticky rice until it reaches a chewy, dough-like texture. Kusa mochi (草もち literally: "grass/weed mochi") is mochi made with yomogi (Japanese mugwort) which gives the mochi a distinctive green colour and slightly grassy flavour.)
Opening the package I was surprised to see the smooth texture of the wafers; it made it look much more like a traditional (non-ice-cream) monaka.
Kusa Mochi Azuki Monaka Ice Cream 草もち風あずきモナカ
Kusa Mochi Azuki Monaka Ice Cream
regular (non-ice-cream) monaka
Biting into the monaka, rather than the slightly grass-like taste of kusa mochi, I was surprised by a faint taste of cinnamon. The exact taste is hard to describe, but I really liked it and would definitely recommend it--in fact I went out and bought another two bars shortly after first trying it.