Mochi Mochi Nippon! All You Need to Know about Japan’s Ubiquitous Rice Cakes

Source: Gaijin Pot
Mochi Mochi Nippon! All You Need to Know about Japan's Ubiquitous Rice Cakes

If you visit Japan, you’re sure to come across mochi (sticky rice cake) in some form or other. This soft, chewy snack can be found in pretty much every supermarket and convenience store in the country, as well as more upmarket versions in specialist sweets shops. It’s staple nosh at most Japanese festivals and used as a food for special occasions.

What is it?

Simply put, mochi is a sticky rice cake. Its main ingredient is a special type of rice known as mochigome (short-grain, glutinous rice). This is what gives mochi its unique gooey texture. First the rice is soaked overnight and steamed, then it’s pounded until it forms a dough.

Although nowadays this can be done with machines, the traditional method — still practiced today — is to use kine, or wood mallets, in a wooden mortar (called an usu). It’s a two-person job, with one wielding the mallet and the other adding water and turning the mixture by hand.

This method is known as mochitsuki and can be quite the spectacle. The two participants have to keep perfectly in time with each other in order to avoid injuring the hands of the person doing the mixing.

If you fancy seeing mochitsuki in action, head to the Nakatanidou mochi shop in Nara City. Said to be the home of the nation’s fastest mochi pounders, they entertain the crowd outside their shop daily with dramatic performances and breathtaking skills.

Variations on a theme

Ichigo (strawberry) daifuku, a Japanese confection stuffed with sweetened red bean and a whole fresh strawberry.

Once this process is complete, a host of different flavors and fillings can be added to make a seemingly endless variety of mochi.

The most common filling is a sweet bean paste made from either anko (sweet red bean paste) or …continue reading