Yesterday, I went to the Miyamoto Musashi festival where I tried fresh mochi for the first time. Mochi is a Japanese rice cake made of mochigome, a short-grain japonica glutinous rice. The rice is pounded into paste and molded into the desired shape.
Traditionally, mochi is made from whole rice, in a labor-intensive process.
- Polished glutinous rice is soaked overnight and cooked.
- The cooked rice is pounded with wooden mallets (kine) in a traditional mortar (usu). Two people will alternate the work, one pounding and the other turning and wetting the mochi. They must keep a steady rhythm or they may accidentally injure one another with the heavy kine!
- The sticky mass is then formed into various shapes (usually a sphere or cube).
Here’s a picture of the professionals smashing mochi:
Note: the lady in white is in charge of turning and wetting the mochi (at the same time as protecting her hands from being mince meat).
Here’s a picture of me smashing mochi:
Note: the weight of the kine is in my facials.
Here’s a picture of me about to smah some anko (read bean) and kinako (soy bean flour) mochi in a whole other sense:
The verdict? Delicious! And tiring to swallow – much chewing is needed! Although an unfamiliar texture, fresh mochi is seriously tasty and nothing compared to regular mochi. If you get the chance, you should seriously try it. Kinako (soybean flour) was my favorite. Ahh if only I could eat fresh mochi more often!
Fun fact (actually, come to think of it, it’s more a depressing fact):
Suffocation deaths caused by mochi are surprisingly common in Japan and in particular; among the elderly citizens. According to the Tokyo Fire Department which responds to choking cases, mochi sends more than 100 people to the hospital in TOKYO ALONE per annum. Between 2006 and 2009, 18 people died from choking on mochi in Tokyo and in just 2011, there were 8 mochi-related deaths in the Japanese capital. Most likely, other localities suffered also.
For this reason, every year, Japanese authorities warn people to cut mochi into small pieces before eating it. The Tokyo Fire Department even has a website offering tips on how to help someone choking on mochi! Who would have known!