日本での一年間

March 31, 2011

Making Mochi Rice Cakes (Mochi tsuki)

Filed under: Cuisine, Events, Food, Interesting — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , — myyearinjapan @ 7:58 am

It is hard to imagine Japan without Mochi, Japanese rice cakes. Anytime time of the year, but especially around new years, it is popular in many communities and families around Japan to pound rice and make mochi, a kind of rice cake. (I don’t particularly like defining mochi as rice cakes because rice cake can refer to many, many things, but I don’t know of a better definition.) Around new years, I was visiting an elementary school and explaining what new years in like in the states to them. While in Japan, there are particular children’s and games and food associated with New Years, a lot of the new years fun in the states is much more fun for adults, so I had difficulty conveying new years to them in an interesting way. When asked if there was special food for new years, I drew a blank. One kid asked me if we have mochi in the states and when I said no, he said, “good thing I was born in Japan.”

In the states, most people who know mochi probably know it in the form of mochi ice cream. Mochi ice cream was the first kind of mochi that I ever ate. In recent years, I’ve also seen small bite-sized pieces of mochi offered as toppings at some frozen yogurt chains.

To make mochi, glutinous rice is pounded down using a wooden pestle called a kine (pronounced key-neigh) and a mortar called an usu. As the rice is pounded, the individual grains cease to exist and it all becomes one sticky mass of rice. It is then shaped and eaten as is or put into a kind of soup. It can also be filled with red bean paste or sometimes with strawberries. For the lazy ones among us, there are now machines that pound the mochi for you, including ones small enough to have at home.

mochi tsuki

Preparing to strike.

mochi tsuki

Bam!

in the mortar

In the mochi mortar. The mochi really sticks to the kine hammer.

yomogi

In addition to plain, white mochi, we also pounded out some green mochi and pink mochi. This is yomogi (Japanese mugwort), the plant used to make the mochi turn green.

preparation

Preparing soem green mochi. We filled a lot of then with anko (red adzuki bean pastes). The anko is what you see on the left on the circular plate.

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