Ohagi: The Japanese Sweet Onigiri Rice Balls
Also known as botamochi, ohagi are sweet rice balls made with glutinous rice.
Mostly, they’re eaten during the higan period of spring and autumn, a Buddhist holiday celebrated by the Japanese during the 2 equinoxes.
Ohagi is a Japanese sweet made from mochi (rice cake) and often anko (red bean paste). It is often eaten in autumn, when the leaves start to change color.
Ohagi can be made with mochigome, such as white or brown rice. Ohagi is usually round or oval in shape, and is often decorated with sesame seeds or kinako (soybean powder).
In this post we'll cover:
What does ohagi mean?
The name “ohagi” comes the autumn flower hagi (bush clover). Traditionally, the sweet rice balls made in the spring period are known as botamochi, and they’re named after the spring flower botan.
So they are two separate dishes made with different toppings. Ohagi is supposed to be made with red azuki beans to resemble the red-purple hagi flower.
In the ohagi recipe, there are 2 types of rice: Japanese and glutinous. Glutinous rice is a sticky and sweet rice strain grown in the southern Asian region.
The name “glutinous” doesn’t mean that the rice contains gluten, but rather, that it’s sticky. It’s not always easy to cook glutinus rice, so look out for rice cookers with a special “sticky rice” setting.
There’s a Japanese cake made from glutinous rice: mochi. Japanese rice, on the other hand, is short-grain-polished white rice.
What does ohagi taste like?
Ohagi has a chewy texture and the mochi can be either sweet or savory. The anko topping is kind of sweet.
How to eat ohagi
Ohagi is often served with tea, and makes a great snack or dessert.
To eat ohagi, simply use chopsticks or your fingers to pick up one ball at a time. If you are using chopsticks, you can hold the ohagi in the palm of your hand, and then eat it in small bites. Alternatively, you can place the ohagi directly into your mouth.
If you are serving ohagi to guests, you may want to put them on small plates or in bowls. Each person can then take one or two ohagi at a time.
What’s the difference between ohagi and botamochi?
The main difference between ohagi and botamochi is the shape. Ohagi are typically round or oval, while botamochi are balls. Botamochi also tend to have a sweeter topping. Both are mochigashi though, a type of sweet made from mochigome.
What’s the difference between ohagi and daifuku?
The main difference between ohagi and daifuku is the filling. Daifuku typically has a sweet red bean paste filling, while ohagi is covered in red bean paste. Daifuku really is filled mochi whereas ohagi is decorated mochi.
Is ohagi healthy?
Ohagi is made from mochi, which is a rice cake. Rice cakes are generally considered to be healthy, as they are low in fat and calories. However, ohagi is also covered in sweet red bean paste, which adds sugar and calories. So while ohagi may not be the healthiest snack out there, it is still a reasonably healthy option.
Ohagi really is just a mogashi made for a special occasion, that’s why it has its unique color and taste.
Joost Nusselder, the founder of Bite My Bun is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with Japanese food at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.