I’ve seen these cute little pumpkin mochi on restaurant menus so many times in China, and they are almost always fried. I remember the first time I had them at Ma La You Huo (麻辣诱惑), a very famous Sichuan restaurant chain in China. It was arranged on a long plate like a pumpkin field with vines and leaves––so cute and pretty. Thus, when Sarah (our Editor in Chief) asked for more pumpkin recipes during this autumn season, naturally these little babies came to mind.
Most sweet rice desserts only use sweet rice flour (note: “sweet rice flour” is made from sticky rice), but for mochi, the dough needs to keep its shape, so a little cornstarch or potato starch is also required. And as far as filling is concerned, you can go with what you like. This buttery pumpkin filling is pretty awesome, but I know a lot of people love red bean filling. Chocolate or Nutella are also great companions to the pumpkin as well!
To make these chewy, pumpkin-shaped desserts, you’ll need to steam them.
As an alternative, you can also make a pan-fried version. Instead of a pumpkin shape, you make a thin patty, brush a flat bottom pan with oil, and use medium low heat to-pan-fry each side (with the pan covered) for 5-6 minutes until golden. It’s not quite as cute as the steamed version, but great if you like your sticky rice cakes crispy!
Pumpkin Mochi Recipe Instructions
Start by making the filling. Melt the butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add 2 cups pumpkin puree, 1/3 cup granulated sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon.
Stir often and cook until the mixture darkens and comes together into a thick paste. This process will take about 30 minutes. Cool completely.
Then you can make the dough. While the filling cools, sift together the sweet rice flour, cornstarch, and caster sugar (also known as superfine sugar, you can also make caster sugar by pulverizing regular granulated sugar in a powerful blender) in a mixing bowl. Add the remaining 1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree and mix to form a smooth dough. The dough should be pliable. If it cracks when handling, it is too dry. Add a couple drops of water. If the dough is too wet, add more sweet rice flour.
Divide the dough into 15 equal pieces and roll them into balls. Cover with a damp paper towel. Once the filling is cooled, also divide it into 15 equal pieces and roll individually into balls.
To assemble, rub a couple drops of water into your palms to make the dough easier to handle. Take a dough ball, flatten it into a 3” circle, and add a ball of filling in the middle.
Close the dough over the filling and roll into a smooth ball.
Press the ball down lightly so it’s shaped almost like a flat pumpkin.
Then use a toothpick to press a pattern of outer lines into your pumpkin shape.
Top with a whole clove as your pumpkin’s “stem.”
Continue assembling until you have all 15 of your mochi pumpkins.
Prepare your steamer with cold water and line the rack with cheese cloth. Place the mini pumpkins on the steamer rack 2 inches apart. See our post on how to set up a steamer if you’re not familiar with steaming foods in Chinese cooking.
Start with cold water and steam for 10-12 minutes using high heat.