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Japanese Home Cooking AUGUST 2020

Dessert is the hardest thing to decide on for a Japanese meal, because most Japanese “desserts” are pretty disappointing, especially when compared to (duh) chocolate. Which is why I’m delighted to show you how to make Okinawan Brown Sugar Sauce—a very Japanese delight that can top anything from ice cream to that traditional Japanese summertime favorite, warabi mochi.

They both start with:

Photo of kuromitsu Okinawan black sugar syrup drizzling into a clear pitcher

Kuromitsu Dessert Sauce

This is typically made with a very dark sugar from Okinawa called kurosatō, but its flavor can be authentically replicated outside Japan by combining regular dark brown sugar with a little molasses

Makes 3/4 c (255 ml)

3/4 c. (255 g) dark brown sugar

1/4 c. (60 ml) molasses

3/4 c. (255 ml) water

Stir together all ingredients in a small saucepan on top of the stove. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and boil, stirring occasionally, for 9-10 minutes (or until it reaches 230°F (110°C). You can test it by dripping a little onto a plate and letting it cool for a few minutes. It will be thin when hot, but resemble pancake syrup when cool.

Kuromitsu Dessert Sauce can be stored, tightly covered, in the refrigerator for up to a month.

What to put it on:

Kuromitsu Sundae, dusted with Kinako Powder

Vanilla ice cream topped with Okinawan brown sugar syrup and roasted soybean flour is a favorite summer treat in Japan

Vanilla ice cream topped with kuromitsu Okinawan black sugar syrup and kinako roasted soybean flour

Kuromitsu dessert sauce

Vanilla ice cream

Kinako (roasted soybean flour)

The combination of Okinawan brown sugar with the sweet, nutty taste of kinako is one of the most classic Japanese taste combinations, when it comes to sweets. You can buy kinako online if you can’t find it at your local Asian market. In a pinch, you can substitute ground peanuts, but I urge you to try to get kinako, because it’s such a unique and pleasing flavor!

If you’d like to try the traditional Japanese treat that inspired all the other kuromitsu + kinako-flavored sweets, here’s how to make it:

Warabi Mochi with Kuromitsu and Kinako

These sweet chewy bites dusted in roasted soybean flour and drizzled with Okinawan brown sugar syrup are one of the most traditional Japanese desserts there is

Warabi mochi topped with kuromitsu Okinawan black sugar syrup

3/4 c. (110 g) warabiko (starch made from bracken) or tapioca flour

1/3 c (28 g) sugar

1-3/4 c. (400 ml) water

Kuromitsu dessert sauce

Kinako (roasted soybean flour)

For the mochi cubes:

Whisk first three ingredients together in a small saucepan until no lumps remain. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly.

Warabi mochi cooking in saucepan on top of the stove
It will get super stiff, super fast

Beat for ten minutes over low-medium heat, not allowing it to stick or burn. This is hard work, and you should totally get credit for Arm Day at the gym afterwards. You have to be really diligent about beating the mochi vigorously and cooking it for the full ten minutes to get that boba-tea pearl texture—I’m a total weenie when it comes to arm strength, so mine turned out a little too soft.

Sift the roasted soybean flour into a bread pan and pour in the mochi. Sift lots more soybean flour on top.

Warabi mochi turned out onto a pan dusted with kinako roasted soybean flour
At first I poured it out on a cookie sheet, but it spread out too thin to make nice cubes, so I transferred it to a bread pan to cool instead

Put in refrigerator for 30 minutes to cool. (Don’t let it stay in there too long, though, because it’ll lose its translucence and turn opaque white if it gets too cold.)

Pour some roasted soybean flour into a small bowl. Turn the mochi out onto a kinako-dusted bread board and slice off a 3/4″ (2 cm) wide strip.

Dangle the strip over the kinako-filled bowl (it’ll stretch) and snip off a square into the bowl with scissors. Swirl the bowl to coat the square in kinako, then snip off the next square. (You have to do it one at a time, or they’ll stick together. I learned this the hard way.) Set the dusted squares aside on another plate, not touching, and repeat until all the mochi is cut up and covered with kinako.

To serve: Chill the squares for no longer than 20 minutes, then mound a few on each serving plate. Drizzle with Kuromitsu Dessert Sauce.

Note: These are best eaten fresh, within a day of making them.

More ideas for incorporating kuromitsu and kinako flavors into Western-style desserts:

If you make your own ice cream, you can make Kuromitsu Ice Cream or Kinako Ice Cream by substituting Kuromitsu Dessert Sauce for maple syrup, or stirring kinako powder into a basic cream base (with or without vanilla) before freezing. (Needless to say, kinako-flavored ice cream topped with Kuromitsu Dessert Sauce is fiendishly addictive.)

• You can make Kuromitsu and Kinako Parfaits by layering vanilla custard with kuromitsu and kinako.

Kinako Shortbread: Add a subtle Japanese flavor to your cookies by substituting roasted soybean flour for a portion of the regular flour.

If you love Japan, you might enjoy The Last Tea Bowl Thief too

“A wonderful blend of history and mystery.” —Laura Joh Rowland, author of The Iris Fan

For three hundred years, a missing masterpiece is passed from one fortune seeker to the next, changing the lives of all who possess it…read more

Jonelle Patrick writes mystery novels set in Tokyo, and blogs at Only In Japan and The Tokyo Guide I Wish I’d Had

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