Food should be fun. – Thomas Keller
Haven’t you ever wanted to eat something just because it looked like it would taste good? (And turned out it did?)
Well, mochi is one of those types of food.
And here is something incredible: Tests have shown that 9 out of 10 women over 35, having gazed upon a sampling of mochi for at least 5 minutes before eating it, experience a whopping 50 percent increase in their levels of the “happy hormone,” serotonin.
Like I said, incredible. Yet, were this true about any food, it would be true about mochi. It’s that pretty.
A very pretty food that happens to taste great.
The fact that it is so eye-catching, as well as tasty, has helped to make mochi the traditional gotta-have-it-or-it’s-just-not-New-Year’s munchy of choice for the major celebration that is Oshogatsu, New Year’s Day in Japan.
Mochi has become so popular in recent years that you can find it in most Asian and Japanese food markets all year round, usually in pretty pastels.
OK, so what exactly is mochi?
Mochi is a sweet rice cake.
It’s principle ingredient is the sweet rice flour known in Japanese as mochi gome or mochiko.
Making mochi is easy:
- First, you steam and pound the mochiko, which actually tastes slightly sweet into sticky submission with mortar and pestle.
- Then, you shape it into flattened balls that you can stuff with the filling of your choice.
- Finally, you dust the sticky orb with katakuriko (potato starch). Doing so makes the rice easier to handle and, ultimately, devour.
Chewy, soft, sweet and easy-to-make. That’s mochi in a nutshell.
Mochi with nuts inside and mochi filled with chocolate are some of the different varieties of mochi you might find. Also delicious, and more widely available is daifukumochi, which is mochi filled with anko – a paste made with azuki beans.
Can you say, “YUMmm?”
And just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, here comes…
Now, picture an anko-filled orb of subtly cherry-flavored sweet rice enveloped in fragrant cherry blossom leaves.
Just thinking of sakuramochi makes my mouth water – it’s that luscious. But those babies only become available for our eating pleasure in the spring at – when else? – cherry blossom time.
That’s when the Japanese go out to celebrate the beauty of the season during an annual phenomenon called hanami. Which literally means “looking at flowers” and is subject for a whole nother post.