What Is Mochi?

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Mochi is one of my favourite things to eat. There are endless ways to prepare and flavour mochi - only limited by your imagination (and stomach). 

When heated, mochi melts and becomes like that of a thick piece of mozzarella cheese, in a way. Basically, it tastes like what it is made from, rice. Flavourings are often added, although it is fine to eat plain - especially if it is made from unpolished-rice (brown) which I find to be more flavourful than (white) polished rice.

Most companies, make mochi with polished-rice (white rice) in Japan. I just end-up using lots of sauce to compensate for the bland flavour. None-the-less, I eat what I can get and usually what I get is the now typical polished-rice mochi. 

In places like Canada and the U.S.A. locally made mochi is seen more as a "health" food. Thus, it is mostly found in health-food stores made with organic whole-rice-grain, but it is (in the polished non-organic variety) also in many Japanese and Asian markets. 

 Traditionally, mochi is made by steaming sticky rice (A.K.A. sweet rice, glutenous rice, mochi rice, sushi rice) then pounding it into a dough. Next, the dough is made into balls and set to cool into a flattened-ball shape. Different individuals, regions, and countries follow this same basic recipe, but different shapes, colours, and flavours vary. It can be eaten immediately, or allowed to dry, or even frozen. Historically, it is said to have become popular, in its dried form, for its portability. 

*For more information about mochi see the "Mochi Facts" post below

*More information on polished verses unpolished rice, see this page: Polished Vs. Unpolished Rice.

*More information on the history of rice, see this page: The Cambridge World History of Food - Rice.

*More information on the history of food in Japan, see this page: The Cambridge World History of Food - Japan.


Image is in public domain
Woodblock print, Preparations for New Year's Day (Pounding Mochi)
Date: 1834/1867

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Fried Mochi

I made this one up myself. Might want to use a non-stick or well-seasoned pan or wok since you don't want the mochi to fuse to the cooking surface.

First bake some mochi. Once puffed-up, take out and make flat. If you baked more than one piece, as I always do, put them together to make one bigger mochi. With a tiny bit of oil, sesame oil works very well, fry both sides until nicely browned.

Then pour a little shoyu into the pan, which should be nice and hot by now. The shoyu should instantly sizzle. Quickly move the mochi around to coat the bottom with shoyu. It will absorb very quickly and flip it over to do the other side the same way. Pay attention to not burn the shoyu.

There will lots of 'smoke' from the shoyu so you might wanna turn on the exhaust fan beforehand.

That's it. Eat it while it's hot. It's yummy. And no, it's not as good without the oil. If you are worried about using oil, especially that crap they sell in most stores I highly recommend using cold-pressed organic oil. If you cannot afford such oil, try buying some good cold-pressed non-organic extra virgin olive oil in a tin (very important that light and plastic does not contact the oil you use). Take a look at the products of "Omega Nutrition", www.omegaflo.com. Or "Udo's Choice" and other such reputable oil companies. They have some of the best quality products of their kind that I have ever seen or tried.

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Mochi Facts

mochi (mo-chee), n. [Japanese, もち, 餅]

mochi - kanji
mochi - hiragana
  1. Often accompanies regular family meals where it is frequently put in hotpot*, heated on a grill or hot plate, or simply heated (grilled, boiled, baked) in the kitchen and brought to the table where it is eaten with grated daikon, grated ginger, seaweed (nori), soy sauce (shoyu), roasted soybean powder (kinako), and sometimes sugar or a mix thereof. [*hotpot: heated pot that sits on dining table where diners add vegetables and other food].

  2. A rounded or square shaped solid mass of rice that has been steamed, pounded, then cooled to harden for keeping.

  3. English translation: rice cake (not to be confused with puffed-rice cake).

  4. Japanese word for a cooked and hardened rice product traditionally made from pounding steamed high-starch (AKA: sticky, mochi, glutinous, sushi, sweet, mochi) rice in a mortar with a large hammer-like wooden mallet into a dough.

  5. Is common throughout the year, but most popular at new year’s where it is given as gifts, used as an ingredient in many dishes such as traditional Zoni (soup), given to the family altar for offering, etc. Also, at this time of year, the traditional method of pounding mochi is displayed at many public events, temples, and family gatherings.

  6. Often accompanies regular family meals where it is frequently put in hotpot*, heated on a grill or hot plate, or simply heated (grilled, boiled, baked) in the kitchen and brought to the table where it is eaten with grated daikon, grated ginger, seaweed (nori), soy sauce (shoyu), roasted soybean powder (kinako), and sometimes sugar or a mix thereof. [*hotpot: heated pot that sits on dining table where diners add vegetables and other food ingredients until cooked, then take them back out individually to eat with their rice.]


  1. When making it fresh at events, it’s common to hand out balls of the still warm and soft mochi where everyone quickly devours it. But cooled and hardened mochi must first be heated. Interestingly, when re-heated the texture is like that of mozzarella cheese. Thick, stringy, stretchy, and lots of fun. If baked, especially over hot coals, the crunchy outer shell that forms is very tasty. When being heated, it will balloon or puff-up. Its famous not only for its versatility and tastiness, but also for many people choking on it every year and dying; especially the elderly, so don’t forget to chew before swallowing.

  2. As a sweet snack or dessert it is most commonly filled with sweet bean paste. The ingredients being simply red azuki beans and sugar.

  3. At most Asian food stores one can find various kinds of frozen Taiwanese and Chinese style mochi balls, usually filled with sweet bean or sweet sesame paste, ready to use in a sweet dessert soup. In the fridge or dry goods section of the Asian market, fresh or dried mochi can be found. Only the Japanese type seems to be found in larger round or square pieces to be eaten alone while the Chinese style is usually cut into small slivers, or other small shapes, ready to use in a soup or stir-fry. Other kinds of Chinese mochi is only sold fresh at Chinese style bakeries where they are usually soft, ready to eat, sweet snacks, often much more sweet than the Japanese style, and even deep-fried. At Taiwanese restaurants mochi is often called “snow balls” in English.

  4. Other Asian countries have taken to using rice flour and water instead of the traditional pounding method as a shortcut Using rice flour creates a much more gooey and soft dough which will remain soft, or at least not harden as quickly at steamed rice.

  5. It is found throughout Asia in many different names and forms. Most popular in Japan, China, Taiwan, Korea, and most other Asian countries seem to have their own versions. Actually, mochi is quite popular in Hawaii. This is because there have been a lot of Japanese immigrants to the island over the years and it seems to have really caught on there. Many recipes, especially the strange ones, I have collected from Hawaii.

  6. Many depictions of traditional mochi making around Asia shows people using various styles of mortar and pestle to pound cooked rice, but I have seen old wooden block prints of Chinese people making it by hand though a combination of kneading and picking it up and slapping it down onto a thick wooden board in order to create the dough.

  1. The character mochi - kanji is Chinese for cracker, but has a different pronunciation than its Japanese counterpart. Such differences occurred since the Japanese language adopted the Chinese writing system; many writings and pronunciations were altered to suit the Japanese language and culture. Phonetically, mochi is thought to have derived from the word with the same pronunciation 持 as in 持ち運ぶ
    mochi - carry as in mochi hakobu - carry
    "mo-chi-hako-bu"
    meaning carry or to have on one’s person "mo-chi-hako-bu", as it is a very convenient and portable food.

  1. Mochi dough process: uncooked 'sticky' rice is placed wooden steam boxes; perhaps four-inches deep with a screen (traditionally bamboo) on the bottom and an open top; stacked one atop the other up to four or five high, the top one with a wooden lid or cloth to cover it. These are placed upon the container (a pot over a fire traditionally) which holds water that is heated from below to produce steam with rises up through the rice cooking it. Since the bottom one cooks more quickly, the boxes are rotated. Once ready, the rice is put into the mortar and pounded with a wooden mallet. The rice is very sticky, therefore the mallet must be kept wet to prevent it from getting stuck. The shaft of the mallet is attached to the head not in the centre, but closer to one end; this is to prevent the shaft hitting the edge of the mortar. Usually one person hammers the dough while another keeps it wet and quickly reaches in between strikes in order to fold the dough inward from the edges. It is said that if one is skilled enough, there is no need for the second person. The dough is then formed it into balls and set to cool. The balls will slowly flatten out before fully cooled and end up being round slightly domed patties. One other method is to spread the dough flat and when very firm, but not fully hardened, cut into small rectangles. Since the rice was steamed and not boiled, the dough will cool very quickly therefore a hot damp towel can be placed on top while making balls, but if many hands are at work, all can be completed well before cooling. Once fully cooled and hardened mochi will keep in a cool dry place very well; unless dried 100% mold will be a problem. Keep in the freezer for best storage. Mochi packaged in plastic bags have moisture or oxygen absorbing packets put in too.

  1. Red Bean Paste (Ankko) Mochi process: When the mochi dough has just been made, it is put on a work surface that has been dusted with rice flour. Hands also dusted, a dollop is plucked from the dough, rolled into a small ball and flattened with the palm and thumb against the palm of one’s other hand while being rotated. A flat round shape is made about the size of one’s palm. Thickness should be even and enough that one cannot see light through it. A second, only slightly smaller dollop is taken and steps repeated. Being very sticky, rice flour is a must, keep well dusted. Place the larger one back on the palm, place the smaller in the centre of that one. Then a dollop of sweet red bean paste; the sweetness should only be slight -- this is not candy. Rotate in one’s palm to turn up the edges and with the other hand pinch it closed as with a round dumpling. Place the pinched side down, it is finished. Keep going, lots of dough and paste remains. As the mochi is closed the top is stretched, the second inner layer protects the outer from ripping open and makes a better presentation as the innards cannot be seen through the transparentness.
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Cheese Mochi

Another of my favourites is to bake the mochi, flatten it, place a piece of "cheese" (I use a vegan cheese, a substitute to animal-milk cheese) in the middle, then fold the mochi around it. Put it back in the oven for a bit, until the cheese is melted. Eat with shoyu.

Simple, and yum~!

I might add, that a good high quality organic soy sauce or tamari is good to use instead of the regular low quality highly processed soy sauce found in most supermarkets. No MSG, preservatives, or colours should be added. These have a much better and more subtle taste that doesn't overpower the other flavour(s) that you are working with, but blends nicely.
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Warabe no Bappo

Local Goods
Kamiishizu
"Warabe no Bappo," a speciality of Kamiishizu,was named after a child character in "Shibunashigaya," an old legend handed down among the people of the town. Try this new product from Kamiishizu, a town surrounded by luxuriant green mountains.

From: Kamiishizu Pages.
[Original website no longer exists, but I would like to try this mochi]

Note: Kamiishizu (上石津町 Kamiishizu-chō) was a town located in Yōrō District, Gifu Prefecture, Japan. On March 27, 2006, Kamiishizu, along with the town of Sunomata (from Anpachi District), was merged into the expanded city of Ōgaki.

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Sweet Potato Mochi

"Okinawan Recipes" - September 1997
Guest Demonstrator: Faith Ogawa

1      lb - mochiko
1      teaspoon - baking soda
1/8    teaspoon - salt
1 1/4  cups - brown sugar
1      can(13.5oz) - coconut milk
1 1/4  cups - water
2      cups - cooked+diced sweet potatoes
1      tablespoon - black sesame seed
       Kinako (yellow soy bean powder)

Preheat electric oven to 350 F. Grease a 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking pan. In a large bowl, sift mochiko, baking soda, and salt; add brown sugar and mix well. Add coconut milk and water; mix well. Fold in sweet potatoes; pour into prepared pan. Sprinkle with sesame seed. Bake for 1 hour. Cool, cut into 2 x 1-inch pieces. Coat each piece with kinako. Makes 54 pieces.

The Electric Kitchen; Hawaiian Electric Company, Inc.
Last Revised: September 1, 1997 (Visit the HECO homepage) - choose "RECIPES" from the menu

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Mochi Waffles

"I learned this recipe from Miriam Kaye, a brilliant cook and artist.

"Mochi is a Japanese food, made by pounding glutinous rice to a paste, then drying it in slabs. These are then cooked on a griddle until they are crisp on the outside and really gluey on the inside, and are served wrapped in a strip of nori (dried seaweed). You can find them at carts in the Ginza (Tokyo's main shopping district) after dark.

"Japanese mochi is made of white rice, but American health-food mochi is made with brown rice, and sometimes raisins and cinnamon. The main (only?) U.S. manufacturer is in Berkeley, California (of course). Mochi cooked by this recipe turns out fluffier and less gluey than by the Japanese method."

Ingredients

1 piece of mochi, 
  about half the area of your waffle iron 
American style toppings: butter, sugar and cinnamon,
  maple syrup
or
Japanese style accompaniments: seaweed, 
  pickles, dried squid, etc.
[make it - send me a photo for this spot]

Procedure

Heat up your waffle iron. Put mochi in the middle and close. Cook until browned. It will expand quite a bit.
Feeds one or more, depending on the size of your waffle iron.

From this place.
[Unable to contact in regards to permission for usage of this recipe]

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