Mochi is a tradition food that has been eaten in Japan for centuries. Its notably famous for its use in dishes during the new year. Although this is made and eaten during other festivals around the year.
Mochi is simply sweet rice pounded into a large wooden mortar. Its made from polished, glutinous short grain rice, adored by the Japanese.
Rather than just being an elaborate and laborious process to make this delicacy The Japanese turn it into a spectacle or rather a theatrical event. Where normally groups would gather around the mortar and watch two men work together to pound down on the rice.
The rice is initially soaked over night before it is brought to boil and cooked. It is then left to cool to the extent that it can be handled. The mortar is then filled with the cooked rice and the pounding begins. One person keeps the mochi wet and turns it over every now and again. Whilst the other hold the mallet and pounds away.
It is a real event of showmanship as well as coordination. To avoid injury this is essential, as mallet crushing down is dangerous. Over time the rice increases in volume, becoming more and more sticky and glutinous. At this time, the sticky rice is shaped into little round shapes, sometimes square depending on region.
Freshly made mochi has a very subtle but delicious flavor. The texture is what separates it from conventional rice foods in Japan. It is requires a bit of chewing and loosens in the warm broth. It hardens realtively quickly and can then be kept for some time.
Sometimes its eat on its own, or with some ‘Kinako’ which is ground down soy bean powder, or with ‘azuki’ which is a sweet red bean. Whilst the most well know dish that uses mochi is called ‘o-zooni’. It is a soup made with a ‘dashi’ stock base (‘dashi’ is made from dried bonito fish and or konbu seaweed) and vegetables, eaten on new years day.
In the west the mochi is first boiled before placing into the soup. In the east part of Japan the mochi is first grilled before being laid into the soup. A fantastic dish to wake up to after all the new years drinking the night before.