Saturday, December 30, 2006

Mochi making

One of the traditional foods eaten during the new year period in Japan are "mochi" - or Japanese rice cakes. We make them every year with my husband's family on the 30th of December so today both Hannah and our new visitor, Amanda, both got to join in on the event....
If you are interested there is a very detailed description of how mochi are made (and how to remove them from your throat if they happen to get stuck...) at the following link: Wikipedia Mochi Making
If you want the shortened, photograhic description of how we do it at our house then read on!
First you soak the special rice (different to rice eaten everyday in that it is much stickier) overnight and drain it.

Next you build a fire, put big pots of rice wrapped in muslin-like cloth on top of a big container of boiling water and steam it for 20-30 minutes.

Traditionally you would now get big mallet like things and pound the rice, but with modern technology you can now just put it in a machine, very similar to a bread kneader and watch as the steamed rice is pounded into a sticky blob.

While the blob is still hot it is made into smaller blobs which are then shaped and placed on big trays.
The first mochi are always very big and are placed in front of the altar etc. as a gift to the gods.

After the plain white mochi are made a green "Japanese herb" is added to the final batch and balls of sweet bean paste are placed in the middle. These ones can be eaten just like that, while the plain ones are usually put in soups, grilled and dipped in soya sauce etc.
It sometimes takes a while to get used to the sticky nature of mochi, but Amanda was a good sport and either didn't mind them too much, or just had so much mochi stuck in between her teeth that she couldn't do anything more than smile!

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