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
    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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