A low-calorie sweet that isn’t gloop and chia seeds.
A month ago I resolved to stop eating sweet things. My habit of brazenly stealing chocolate from my kids was unbecoming, but it was vanity not morality that finally drove me to seek to reduce my sugar consumption. I had self-diagnosed with that well-known affliction “sugar face”: dry, ruddy skin either side of my nose with daily outbreaks of tiny spots.
Admittedly, I was slightly out of step with trends, but as the pseudo-science behind the clean-eating fad was being debunked on BBC Two’s Clean Eating — The Dirty Truth, I was trying to swap my bread-and-butter pudding addiction for a chia seed-based vanilla dessert. It was beige, smelt pungent like a face mask and resembled dirty frogspawn. Ominously, it kept sliding off the spoon. It did contain 3g of the omega-3 ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), but my gut told me, very clearly: omega-3 has no business invading dessert. A single slimy mouthful left me feeling sick. My stomach still turns if I think about it.
So rather than undergo the psychological trauma of quitting delicious out-and-proud sugars, I searched for a compromise, an elusive sweet spot equidistant between spiralising a courgette and bingeing yum yums at Greggs. Then I came across mochi ice cream.
Had I created a ‘health-freaky’ dessert, I’d feel like a hypocriteVivien Wong, co-founder, Little Moons
Mochi is a traditional Japanese delicacy; a chewy cake of glutinous short-grain rice pounded into a dough and, often, filled with red bean paste. It can be sweet, savoury or — for our purposes — wrapped around ice cream (an approach that was highlighted as a rising trend by last year’s Google Food Trends Report).
The Londoner Vivien Wong co-founded Little Moons mochi ice cream with her brother Howard, and since 2010 they have supplied stores, including Selfridges and Whole Foods, and high-end Japanese restaurants, such as Nobu, with hand-rolled golf ball-size spheres of sweet, springy mochi filled with exquisite ice cream. All are made in the UK with cream from a local dairy, from a recipe developed with Nobu’s head patisserie chef — no artificial flavourings, colours or preservatives and less than 100 calories a pop.
“We use double cream, we use fresh milk. It’s all clean ingredients,” Vivien Wong says, seemingly oblivious to how controversial the c-word has become recently. “I don’t add any additives; it’s stuff that people would feed to their children. When we make our mango purée gelato we use mango purée — that’s it. We don’t add any flavourings. Yes, it’s sweet, but it’s all the mango sugar. We also use other sugars in our mochi. I don’t want to eat half the calories with half the taste. Dessert is about a small moment of indulgence. I want to have the best that I can in that bite.” Had she created a “health-freaky” dessert, she says, “I’d feel like a hypocrite because that’s not how I live my life.”
Alas, not everyone is able to nip into Nobu of an evening. Happily, Little Moons mochi ice cream is available nationwide from Ocado. “They could see that mochi was a trend,” Wong says. “It answered a lot of what consumers are looking for now. They want bite-sized treats.” Six flavours are available: raspberry, mango, coconut, toasted sesame, matcha green tea and, my favourite, vanilla — a thin, sweet, chewy, marzipanish layer of dough, dusted with icing sugar and filled with delicious ice cream. Apparently, mochi has the “Q texture” — a springy consistency that in the Far East is to mouth-feel what umami is to taste. I find it impossible to eat it without a grin on my (sugar) face.
As to controlling that, Wong advises to stick to one mochi ice cream ball. “I’m a big advocate of eating everything in moderation. When I do these faddy diets — where I say you can’t have carbs — all I can think about is carbs. Carbs all day. If I allow myself a small pack of crisps, then it’s done and I don’t think about it. That’s a sensible way of eating.” Little Moons mochi ice cream, £3.99 per six pack, ocado.com