Arare (pronounced ah-rah-reh) is the Japanese word for tiny rice crackers (you know, the kind they put in snack mixes along with wasabi peas). It's basically made by toasting mochi until it puffs up like popcorn and takes on the fantastic toasty flavor of caramelized rice. The kind in the snack mixes are are salted, so you wouldn't want to use those, but the flavor works well with sweet things too.
I used these as "croutons" in a soup I did for my mom's birthday dinner over the holidays, but I couldn't help but wonder what else I could add them to. While eating a piece of burnt rice flavored candy it occurred to me that the flavor goes well with sweet things as well. Cream seemed like a natural accompaniment to the smoky flavor and the rest just sort of fell into place. Putting it in a shaker with some ice gives it a nice layer of cappuccino-like froth on top.
To get the flavor into the cocktail I just steep the toasted mochi in simple syrup like tea. If you want the flavor of the arare to "pop" more, use an unflavored alcohol like shochu or vodka. If you want something that compliments the toasty rice, try using irish whiskey (it almost tastes like Bailey's).
For arare simple syrup
- Spread the mochi cubes evenly over a baking sheet and toast at 350 degree until they are puffed up and a deep caramel color. You may need to turn the sheet and shake them up a bit half way through. Be very careful as they take a while to start browning but then they go from toasty to burnt to flaming in a matter of seconds (yes I lit my toaster oven on fire with the first batch).
- When they're done, set aside a few to garnish your drinks and dump the rest into a small sauce pan along with the sugar and water. Bring to a boil then turn off the heat and let it steep until the syrup has cooled off a bit. Strain using a tea strainer and press on the solids to extract all the flavor then toss them out.
- To mix the drink, just fill a shaker with ice, pour in the simple syrup, alcohol of your choice, and half and half. Shake vigorously and pour into glasses topped with a few pieces of reserved arare.