Nothing quite says “Fukui” like habutae mochi. Though it might look just like ordinary white mochi, it is not at all “just” a simple mochi. These thin sheets of smooth mochi are so soft and delicate they practically melt in your mouth. Named for a traditional kind of silk also famous in Fukui it is easy to see why this traditional sweet is handedly one of the most sought-after souvenirs.
You won’t have any trouble finding habutae mochi, especially in Fukui City. Plenty of stalls sell them in Fukui Station and, of course, in souvenir shops throughout the prefecture. It is pretty affordable too. One box is usually less than 1,000 yen.
So, what is it that makes habutae mochi so special? Habutae (or Habutai), literally meaning “two-layer feather,” refers to an expensive kind of silk. Habutae was particularly famous for its softness with a sheen.
Though habutae was at one time predominantly produced in Fukui Prefecture, the textile industry gradually began to dwindle too. As the availability of habutae silk began to fade people began to sell a kind of mochi that was reminiscent of the same softness and sheen as the silk.
“Smooth as Silk” Mochi
Keeping with the spirit of the iconic two-layer feather softness of the silk, each package of mochi contains two sheets. These delicate layers of rice cake do indeed look like soft silk.
While the ingredients of habutae mochi are not all that different from other kinds of mochi, these are notably less sticky. The smooth velvety texture of mochi virtually melts the moment it touches your tongue. Like most traditional Japanese confectioneries, it had a very mild sweetness.
These days there are new arranged versions of habutae mochi with the anko or even nuts! Though the plain traditional ones are good, these newer variations are a great option if you want to try something new.