Daifuku (大福) is a type of Japanese snack which is known as Wagashi. They are a popular tasty treat shaped into small round balls with the insides stuffed with creamy fillings. The outside is made with mochi (glutinous rice cake), which makes it chewy. These sweets used to be eaten only during celebrations like the New Year, but now they're available in shops all year round.
Daifuku literally means "great luck" in Japanese. It was originally called Habutai mochi, which meant "belly thick rice cake." The confectionery was likely given this name because it is made with mochi, which is packed with calories and can be very filling when eaten.
If you want to skip the part about the History of Daifuku and how to make them, check out our list of best Daifuku below:
Daifuku is supposed to have evolved from uzura mochi, which is shaped like a quail. During the early Edo period (1603–1867), these wagashi were first made. In 1875, a widow in Koishikawa, Edo (modern-day Tokyo), miniatured the snacks and sweetened the red bean paste.
Because of the way the filling expanded inside the rice cake, it came to be known as habotai mochi (belly thick rice cake). Later, the name was changed to daifuku mochi (large belly rice cake), and then it was modified once more. This time, the name was a pun on the Japanese term fuku, which may both mean "luck" or "belly."
The new daifuku mochi, which translates to "excellent luck rice cake" in Chinese characters, was thought to bring good fortune. Daifuku is consequently frequently linked to celebrations of the Japanese New Year and other spring festivals.
Hot daifuku, which street vendors baked and sold, also gained popularity in the late 1700s. Daifuku mochi was the original name for the baked variant, whereas Nama no Anmochi (raw anko red bean rice cake) or "mochi manju" were used for the unbaked versions.
Fun fact: It wasn't until the latter part of the 18th century that sweetened red bean paste was developed. Daifuku mochi with salted red bean filling was frequently offered throughout the Meiji and Taisho periods (1868–1926) because sugar was a luxury good at the time.
Daifuku and Dango certainly have similarities that make it understandable when people mistake one for the other. If you're a fan of anime, then you must've seen dango at least once, they're perhaps one of Japan's most iconic treats, and it comes in a similar shape as Daifuku.
It is rather easy to tell the difference between the two. Daifuku is stuffed with fillings, usually anko though there might be other types of fillings. For dango, it is usually covered in sauce or even has anko spread over it and is commonly served on a skewer.
There are a ton of other Japanese snacks that are also mistaken for Daifuku. An example of this is mochi; we have an article covering 10 traditional Japanese wagashi.
The process of making Daifuku used to be labor intensive. This is a part of the reason why it was only eaten during New Year's. Thankfully, these days mochi flour is available in supermarkets.
Ichigo is the name for strawberries in Japan. The usual stuffing is replaced with strawberries alongside red bean paste. Since this is made with fresh fruit, it is advisable to eat them quickly. Not that you'd have much to be worried about in that regard, they're tasty enough to keep you coming for more. There are other awesome strawberry snacks in Japan, and you can learn all about them in our article linked before.
This is the more traditional Daifuku. Its origin dates back to 1603, the Edo period in Japan. The mame in its name is derived from red bean paste which consists of its filling.
It is also made with red bean paste that is lightly salted. This version is now quite as sweet as the other ones, so it's quite good for people who tried the other varieties and found them to be too sweet. Plus, the combination of slightly salty and slightly sweet yields a unique taste.
Purin Daifuku is a more modern take on daifuku making. It comes in two ways, one is mochi outer with a filling made with creamy custard, and the other is red bean paste but with caramel sauce smeared on the outside. This type of Daifuku is inspired by mouthwatering crème caramel.
This follows the recipe of the general Daifuku, but things change when it comes to the stuffing. It is still made with red bean paste but flavored with coffee beans too. This is for those who are completely obsessed with the taste of coffee and are looking to try something other than a beverage.
Ume daifuku is also known as plum daifuku. This type of Daifuku is made with, you guessed it, plum. That's true but also not really. While it is sometimes called plum, it more closely resembles apricots. The red bean paste still goes into the mochi, but it is used to coat the plums before being wrapped up. Ume daifuku is usually enjoyed in colder seasons, like late winter or early spring.
Yomogi daifuku is more of an extra healthy, vegetarian daifuku variant. Yomogi is a herb in Japan, and you might already know them as mugworts. The mochi is flavored with powdered yomogi before being stuffed with red bean paste.
This daifuku is made by mixing millet (a small, hard grain) with the mochi.
Taking inspiration from the famous chestnut cream dessert, this daifuku uses chestnut cream as its filling instead of red bean paste.
One of the other dessert-inspired types of daifuku, this variation uses tiramisu cream combined with coffee-flavored mochi.
The word “nanjakora” expresses disbelief, like a rough way of saying, “What is this?!”. This daifuku boasts a strange combination of fillings, combining chestnuts, strawberries, and cream cheese inside the filling. It is a rare version of daifuku found in Miyazaki City in the Kyushu region.
Using a sweet matcha (Japanese green tea) flavored cream as the filling, this daifuku is best served with matcha powder sprinkled on top.
Despite not actually being a distinct sort of daifuku, the confections are occasionally roasted before consumption because mochi has a short shelf life. Mochi soon goes bad and gets harder in the process. As a result, people frequently toast mochi to make the rice cake taste fresher, which makes daifuku softer and stickier. This method of eating daifuku is recommended.
Yukimi Daifuku, often known as mochi ice cream, is not a true daifuku. Instead, it's a well-known mochi ice cream brand distributed by Lotte in Japan. A proprietary manufacturing process keeps the mochi supple even in below-freezing temperatures. It entails wrapping a mochi-wrapped ice milk ball in a layer before dipping it in coconut milk.
Ice cream is available in delectable varieties like chocolate, strawberry, and green tea. A common hobby in Japan is watching the snow fall, and the name "yukimi" is a parody of the dish called "tsukimi daifuku," which is eaten while gazing at the moon.
If you find yourself in Japan and you're hungry for a snack, don't just reach for a chocolate bar; try some of these varieties of Daifuku and get some of that unique experience. Here at ZenPop Japan, we have monthly snack boxes filled with amazing Wagashi from Japan. Click here to order yours!
This article was originally written by our freelance writer Umm-Kulthum Abdulkareem and edited by us.