Hands on at the Mochi Party
Mochi: a New Year's tradition
Mochi is a popular rice cake snack. It's made many ways and called many things throughout Asia. In Japan, it is especially important during New Year's Day.
While wandering through the market with my girlfriend at the end of the year, we stuck to our list: beer, sake and chips. But it's almost New Year's Day, don't we need mochi? Everyone in Japan eats mochi during New Year's Eve and New Year's Day.
Mochi is tradition. It's warm, soft, thick and chewy. It lined the shelves around me at the market and was being snapped up quickly. She didn't seem to notice. At least I didn't think she did until she told me, "We're making our own."
Making our own mochi? On New Year's Day? She didn't have to tell me twice. Based on my latest experience making my own instant ramen at the Instant Ramen Museum, I knew this would be fun.
Homemade mochi, I can't wait!
Everyone loves mochi!
Do you like mochi?
How to make mochi - It's simple if you have the equipment
Making mochi the traditional way is simple if you have the equipment.
First, you need mochi rice also known as glutinous rice. It is called glutinous rice because of its texture. This rice is especially sticky when cooked. The name doesn't have anything to do with gluten. Using the right rice will make your mochi easier to make and give it the perfect texture.
Next is the kine and usu. Kine is a large wooden mallet, especially designed for pounding the rice into mochi. Usu is a mortar that will hold the mochi rice while it is being pounded into mochi.
In the video below you'll see the professionals get it on. So cook your rice, put it in your usu and...
Now the next step
With enough pounding the rice will look like dough. It will feel like mochi. You'll know when you're finished when it's thick enough to eat. Everyone likes their mochi thick and dense. Your Japanese friends will tell you when it's ready. Pull it out of the usu and put it on a table.
The final step is taking that mass of mochi and breaking into smaller pieces. These pieces will be flat and circular but not as thin as pancakes. Some people like it flat and rectangular but not as thin as crackers.
I like mine plain but others like to add things such as sweet bean paste or sesame seeds.
How to eat mochi
You cooked it, you pounded it, you shaped it and now you have your mochi. Now what? You're cold and so is your mochi. In winter, most of the locals like to add it to a soup or stew. That's what we're doing here.
On New Year's Day, the traditional soup is called zoni. The ingredients vary by region but ours had a bonito soup stock and vegetables. By keeping the soup simple we can appreciate the mochi as gets warm and then melts in our mouths.
Mochi we didn't finish during the day we had in the evening. This was even more simple but just as delicious. It was baked in the toaster oven. Then we ate it crispy with soy sauce mixed with a little sugar.
Please be careful! Mochi can be dangerous
There are a few things to keep in mind when making or even eating mochi. Always remember...
- If you are making mochi during the holiday season it will be cold. No matter how much fun you're having, stay warm and hydrated
- Watch out for the kine (wooden mallets). Watch your hands and feet. No matter who is swinging, it comes down hard! Leave the fancy stuff to the pros. One wrong move and you're on your way to the hospital
- Watch out for the usu (mortar). The larger ones are made of wood but ours was smaller and made of stone. Aim carefully and hit the rice. If you miss and hit the mortar itself it will hurt. You'll feel it in your joints, especially your wrists and elbows. It will be something right out Tom and Jerry
- Mochi is very chewy, so chew it! I'm not kidding, people choke on it all the time. Eat slowly, be patient and enjoy yourself. Take small bites and don't talk with your mouth full
- Finally, watch out for the pink mochi. Usually it's strawberry mochi but sometimes it's mochi with smashed, dried shrimp. Yuck!
If all of this seems like common sense then follow it! More than once I accidentally missed the mochi and hit the usu directly. Ouch!