I’ve decided for the art prompt today I would use some of my prior knowledge. What a concept.
Once upon a time, I majored in Art History. I am now in a different field altogether, but I haven’t lost my passion for the subject. When I was studying in school, I specialized in mostly Asian art (Japanese, really). I loved Western art as well, but it didn’t resonate with me quite like Japanese art did. The ideas and philosophy behind Japanese art come from an ancient culture that was independent, reflective, and respectful of nature. These themes come across in their art and culture today, I believe, although they are a much more global nation.
One aesthetic of Japanese art that always stuck with me is that of wabi-sabi. It’s an interesting concept that describes the appreciation of impermanence and imperfection. The aesthetic stems from Buddhism and includes zen rock gardens, tea wares, and bonsai trees. I always loved the tea pottery and its rustic appearance. Although it does not appear “pleasing” to the eye, it holds character and can tell a story. The teaware has been used and time has graced it with some imperfections and even damage perhaps. The beauty of the object comes from its true state of being, not from its color, shape or condition.
I’d like to think that we can all take away a lesson from the concept of wabi-sabi and also Buddhism in the larger sense. Without getting too weird here, I’d like to offer you my dish for today: isobeyaki and barley tea.
I chose isobeyaki (savory mochi) because of its homemade nature, its simplicity and its savory and complex flavor. Mochi roasted in soy sauce and wrapped in nori isn’t exactly glamorous, but it’s surely delicious next to a cup of earthy barley tea. I’d like to think of this dish as a more rustic alternative to a proper and meticulous pairing one would see in a Japanese tea ceremony. The umami is ever present in the mochi and tea which is a lovely way to prime yourself for dinner after work or school.
The mochi I used was pre-made but you can make your own if you’d like. Head over to this page and check out my homemade mochi. It’s very simple but can get a little messy. If you don’t have barley tea, use any type of tea you would like. Green tea would be a wonderful alternative as it has grassy notes that would brighten the mochi’s flavor a bit. A sweeter tea wouldn’t really work here, however.
Although this isn’t a recipe per se, I included my directions for preparing the mochi in a quick and easy way that does not use any oil. I used a gluten-free soy sauce, but any kind works. Coconut aminos is a good substitute if you’re sensitive or allergic to soy. Enjoy and let me know if you made some of your own!
Isobeyaki and Barely Tea
- 2 squares mochi
- 1 sheet toasted nori
- 2 teaspoons soy sauce, divided
- 1 barely tea bag (or tea of choice)
- 4 ounces freshly boiled water
- Line a baking sheet (either for the oven or toaster oven) with foil/parchment paper.
- Preheat oven to 350 F.
- Place the mochi squares on the baking sheet and coat with the soy sauce on both sides.
- Roast the mochi for about 12 minutes or until crispy on the outside and gooey on the inside.
- While the mochi is roasting, boil some hot water. Once the water is boiled, pour it into a teacup with some barley tea (or tea of choice). Let steep for about 30 seconds depending on the strength you prefer. Remove tea bag and set aside.
- Remove the mochi and wrap them in individual pieces of nori.
- Serve with tea and quiet.