Traditional Korean food is made with what the land offers aplenty. The climate is perfect for rice and soybean farming, and the sea surrounding the country offers plenty of seafood for cooking various dishes. I presume that after a few centuries or so, people started coming up with new ways to use what they had. After all, a bowl of rice is just rice until you make it into rice wine, sweet rice dessert drinks, and of course, rice cakes. Korean rice cakes vary greatly. They can be savory or sweet, full of nutritious goodies, or filled with decadent honey and nut filling.
Korean rice cake is primarily made by soaking and steaming either regular or sweet rice kernels and then pounding them to correct, sticky consistency. This procedure is very labor intensive and is extremely difficult do replicate in the home kitchen without the proper equipment. Japanese rice cake, on the other hand, is different from Korean rice cake in that their main derivative comes from using glutinous, or sweet, rice flour mixed with water to make a sweet rice cake with filling. Thankfully, Japanese rice cake, or Mochi, are easy to make at home. Especially if you use ready-made, canned red bean filling. Look for them at your Asian grocer. Usually the finely ground paste-type is used, but I felt adventurous, and decided to use the whole bean-type for additional texture.
Easy Mochi with Sweet Red Bean Filling
1 cup sweet rice flour
1/2 tsp salt
3 1/2 TB sugar
1 cup water
3/4 cup red bean paste, canned
In a microwave-safe bowl, stir together the rice flour, salt, and sugar. Slowly add the water and stir until blended.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and microwave for 3 minutes. Take out the bowl and stir for 1 minute. Microwave again for 45 seconds. Stir the mixture again for 1 minute.
Divide the red bean paste into 8 balls. Sprinkle cornstach on a cutting board and roll about 1/2″ thick. Cut the dough into 8 equal pieces. Place a ball of red bean paste into the center of a piece of rice cake, and wrap the ball with the rice dough. Press the ends together smoothly. Sprinkle with more cornstarch if needed. Repeat with remaining dough and filling.
Makes 8 mochi.