Cost: 129 yen
Found At: Family Mart
THE STRAWBERRIES ARE BACK! The hardest part of the long, hot summer and the short, temperamental autumn was the absence of one of my favorite desserts in Japan: the strawberry mochi. Much like the chestnut mochi, this is just a regular mochi (red bean paste in pounded rice), with a whole, fresh strawberry thrown in for good measure. Unlike chestnut mochi, however, the addition of the strawberry actually makes the whole thing better. Its sweet and tart and refreshing and almost a serving of fruit – and believe it or not, the tartness of the strawberry is the perfect offset to the sickly sweetness of red bean paste. Trust me, I was as surprised as anyone when I first bought one – unaware that it contained an actual, honest-to-goodness fresh strawberry – and discovered what a treat rice and beans and strawberries can be.
And then there’s the scarcity factor. You never know if the convenience store will have them – they just appear sporadically at the checkout counter in the winter and early spring until they one day just disappear again. Sometimes a convenience store just doesn’t stock them, or they are sold out for the week, or the shipment just never came in. So, when you see them, you know that this might be your only chance to get one for days, maybe weeks, maybe months. But unlike most other impulse purchases, I’ve never once regretted a strawberry mochi. It’s always been worth it.