The Japanese are not really known for their desserts. Why do you think there are so many Japanese who come here to Paris to learn how to be patissiers or chocolatiers? Go to Japan and you can see the folie for French-style desserts has fullen taken hold there. (Some have even stayed in France and made a name for themselves here.)
But when I was visiting Japan, I was not so much impressed by their imitation-French desserts but instead fell in love with daifuku, a simple-seeming Japanese dessert made from mochi (pounded rice) and stuffed, most often, with a sweet red azuki bean paste, called anko. They’re just lightly sweet, which I appreciated, but mostly it’s the soft, gooey texture, with a bit of resistant bite. Sometimes you’ll see some horrible industrialized version in a Parisian Asian supermarket, but daifuku were mostly unknown here until recently.
Touraine resident Mathilde Motte, who discovered the mushy treats while living in Japan, is trying to change that. She formerly offered her desserts only online, but now she’s opened a tiny Maison du Mochi shop in the 6th arrondissement. Homemade with care, these are definitely adapted to French tastes: the mochi has a softer bite than traditional mochi, and they’re stuffed with fillings that go from traditional (anko) to Frenchy-French (almond and hazelnut).
Somewhat to my surprise, I ended up liking the traditional anko and astringent yuzu the best. Other flavors, like the nuts, didn’t create a sharp enough contrast to be interesting. What I missed the most, though, when compared to traditional daifuku, was the proportion of filling to mochi. The Japanese desserts have a heftier portion of mochi, which for me — a gooey rice fan — is a big part of the appeal. Motte’s confections may go over better with Westerners, however, and she certainly seems dedicated to the cause, having even written a book about Japanese desserts. Her sweet treats — though not cheap at €28 for a box of eight — will definitely do me until I save enough for my next trip to Japan.
La Maison du Mochi, 39 rue du Cherche-Midi, 6th arrondissement, Also available in Paris at the Café Caché in the 15th, Collection T in the 2nd and 9th, as well as in Loches and Aix-en-Provence (see the Maison du Mochi site for exact addresses).