If you haven’t tried mochi yet, you’re missing out! Mochi is a soft, chewy, delicious Japanese rice cake that comes in many different varieties and flavors. It is enjoyed year-round in Japan but especially during the Japanese New Year. A similar type of rice cake is also found in Korean cuisine, called tteok.
Mochi is made using a short grain glutinous rice (called mochigome) that is steamed then pounded repeatedly, by traditional mallets or modern machines. The repetitive pounding process turns the rice into dough after time, and two very key ingredients are also added during this process: water and air. Water is added to tools and hands that come into contact with the dough so that they do not stick. Pounding adds air to the dough, which contributes to mochi’s uniquely soft and stretchy texture.
The exact origin of mochi is unclear, but it is believed that the pounding technique for making mochi originated from China and was eventually passed to Japan. Mochi production in Japan might have begun as far back as the Yayoi period, which started in 300 BC. Archaeologists have found steaming tools similar to those used in making mochi which date all the way back to the Kofun Period, or between 250 - 538 AD. Several specific types of mochi are tied to the celebration of the Japanese New Year, including kagami mochi (“mirror” mochi, originated around 1185 - 1333 AD), a soup containing mochi, and roasted mochi.
Today, mochi is still incredibly popular and beloved in Japan, and its popularity has spread globally! Here in the U.S., mochi is most commonly found in ice cream form. In this treat, mochi is wrapped around a ball of ice cream, perfectly complementing the creamy sweetness of the ice cream with its soft, chewy texture and delicate taste. It comes in many flavors, from traditional ones like red bean and green tea, fruit flavors like strawberry and mango, and much more. Try out mochi ice cream today, or freshly made mochi if you can find it locally! If you aren’t one already, chances are you’ll become a huge fan of the unique, chewy, delicious treat that is mochi!