Continuing on our series of articles on Japanese sweets available in Newcastle’s Chinatown, today we will be looking at the Japanese confectionary Daifuku.
Daifuku (大福) is a Japanese rice cake eaten year round in many Asian countries. Daifuku’s outer later is made of Mochi (餅) which is made by cooking glutinous rice and leaving it to soak overnight, the next day the process of Mochitsuki begins. This is where the mixture is pounded with mortars or mallets until it becomes the right texture. Mochitsuki can be perfected to amazing precision and even sumo wrestlers have been known to partake! The Mochi is then wrapped around a filling, traditionally red or white bean paste, although in modern times many different fillings are available including pleasant fruit flavours. The Daifuku is then completed by being covered in a thin layer of starch to prevent sticking.
The name Daifuku is a shortened form of Daifukumochi which literally translates to ‘big belly rice cake’ but due to the similarity in the pronunciation of belly, ‘fuku’, and luck, also‘fuku’, the spelling of the kanji was changed to mean ‘good luck rice cake’. Since then Daifuku has become associated with wishing good luck in Japan and thus have become a popular traditional gift
There is a large selection of Daifuku/Mochi confectionary available across Chinatown; probably the most impressive selection is in HiYou (The first isle you come to as you enter, opposite the chiller fridges). They are available in ready to eat boxes or in frozen form in the freezer section (advised to let it warm up before chomping down though). Daifuku is also vegetarian and vegan friendly, although you are always advised to check the packaging just in case. If you are feeling like experimenting you can sometimes find mixed boxes of Daifuku, which are handy for trying out many types at once.
Daifuku can be anywhere between cheap and expensive in Chinatown depending on what type and how many the packages contained; we managed to pick up a nice box with about 15 mini pieces for about £1.30.
So if you’re thinking of expanding beyond Pocky and into other forms of Japanese confectionary why not try Daifuku or some form of Mochi? The fruit flavours are recommended for those unsure about the bean paste options; although you should defiantly try those once you’re feeling adventurous.