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Mochi and Shougatsu

Every year for the past 10 years, we celebrate "shougatsu" and make and eat mochi. Shougatsu is the celebration of the New Year, Japanese style. Although we don't do absolutely everything for shougatsu, we still hold on to several traditions.

Osechi Ryouri (御節料理)
This an eye-popping spread of specially prepared foods just for the new year. Fish cake (kamaboko), black and white beans (kuro and shiro mame), chestnuts (kuri) and other delights are all cut up and arranged artfully on a huge-ass plate. Lots of the food is "preserved" in some way as the "real" celebration involves this food sitting out for anywhere from a 1/2 day to several days.
This year's (somewhat) small osechi plate...

We also make Ozouni (お雑煮) which is a traditional New Year's day soup made from dashi (Japanese fish stock), chicken, carrot, mizuna (or spinach), fish cake and toasted mochi. It's easy to make and very delicious with the addition of toasted mochi.
The whole spread including the ozouni (in the small brown bowls)...

You can read and see more about making mochi (餅) by following the link below...

Mochi (餅)
Mochi is pounded sweet (glutinous) rice. Traditionally, this rice is cooked and then put into the top of a semi-hollowed out tree stump a then pounded on with giant wooden mallets until it is a sticky, unform mass. During the pounding, there is a very brave soul who moves the mass around inbetween whacks of the mallet. I am positive that there are some injuries that happen every year...suffice it to say that we don't do this. We use a commercial mochi maker.

Our mochi maker looks like a loaf-shaped rice cooker. It has a super-non-stick bowl (believe me you NEED super-non-stick for mochi) with an impeller mounted in the bottom of it. You wash and soak the rice (for 6-12 hours) then drain it, then cook it, then "pound" it.
Washing by sifting the uncooked rice through your fingers...a very zen experience...
mochi cooked.jpg
The rice looks like very small pearls when cooked...now onto "pounding"...

The pounding is achieved by the impeller which starts mush-ifying the rice near it. The rest of the rice follows suit and 10 minutes later...you have mochi.
mochi pounded.jpg
The non-stick bowl and a six-cup batch of freshly pounded mochi...
mochi prep1.jpg
Mochi and the impeller. Notice how sticky the rice has become...

After the pounding is done, we pull small, two-bite sized pieces off of the whole mass, pat them into rounds, dust them with flour and let them cool.
mochi pull1.jpg
Pinching off a small piece to start with...
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Our "preferred" size: about two bites. Well, for me at least...

After they cool completely (and harden a bit), I "polish" them to rid them of excessive flour. They keep for about 4 days in the fridge and pretty much forever if you freeze them right after they cool.
mochi finish.jpg
All mochi formed and set to cool and eventually be "polished" and set to eat or save for later...

You can toast them over a flame and drop them into soup, heat them in a microwave and dip them in soy sauce, boil them until soft and dredge them in kinako powder and sugar...they're carbo-rific but delicious. They're also a challenge to eat as they are so sticky.


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