Warabi mochi (わらび餅), a mochi dessert made with eagle fern powder, is very common during the summer season. It has a chewy and stretchy texture, usually eaten cold. It is covered with a thick layer of soybean powder and dark honey, and sometimes sweet red bean paste. This traditional Japanese dessert is still very popular which can be found in specialized restaurants, department stores and convenient stores.
Warabi mochi is Emperor Daigo’s (885-930 AD) favourite dessert, marking the long history of this food item. Eagle fern powder is extremely rare in the past and until now. As a result, this dish was only available within the royal families and privileged class in the past, since the original recipe used pure eagle fern powder without other starch powder. Warabi mochi made with pure eagle fern powder is in a darker shade, almost black.
Starting from the Edo period an alternated recipes of warabi mochi became popular, and a rather small amount of eagle fern powder was used. Chef replaced it with yam or tapioca starch, which made the dessert more affordable to general citizens. This alternated recipe was massively adopted as a tea snack when the Chinese tea culture was brought over to Japan. This modern recipe does not have a dark colour but a white translucent or transparent shade.
Eagle fern powder comes from the root of the plant, and only around 500g of powder can be made out of 10kg of raw roots. The harvesting season is wintertime between December to February, and the collected roots have to be washed thoroughly in cold water to keep the best quality. Half a month is required to produce pure eagle fern powder, including the process of grinding, sifting, regrinding, starching and drying.
Simple DIY recipes for warabi mochi are available. Ingredients needed are very minimal, which includes pure eagle fern powder, sugar and water for the mochi dough, and soybean powder and dark honey dishing.
1) Melt 50g of eagle fern powder completely and finely in 250 ml of cool water. Then sift it into a pot, and add 100 g of sugar into the mixture before cooking.
2) Use a spatula to cook the mixture in medium heat until it becomes a thick and sticky dough.
3) Remove the dough from the pot into soybean powder. Cut it into bite-size and bread each piece with soybean powder.
4) Let it sit until cool, then refrigerate it for 30 mins before eating. Add a drizzle of dark honey with serving, warabi mochi is done!
Warabi mochi can be found in 7-eleven at 2CAD per order, or 20CAD in specialized stores for a 100% pure eagle fern powder recipe. It worth a try even for the more expensive ones as the taste are drastically different from the version in convenient stores.