Rice cake, anyone?
What is Mochi?
Mochi is a Japanese rice cake made from short-grain glutinous rice. It’s origins, however, may have derived from China, and the Chinese have a multitude of different kinds of rice cakes, in either sweet or savoury flavours. In both Japan and China, sweet rice cakes are ubiquitous in New Year’s celebrations, as they are seen as tokens of fortune.
Historically, Japanese mochi was produced with red rice and was restricted to be eaten only by the Japanese Emperor and nobles. Later on, mochi was used in religious offerings to Shinto Gods by nobles. Commoners were eventually able to partake in mochi consumption during New Year’s festivities. Unmilled (brown) short-grain glutinous rice became the starting material for mochi.
The Japanese mochi was traditionally made in a labour-intensive process that started with soaking the brown glutinous rice overnight, and then steaming the rice, followed by crushing and pounding the rice with wooden mallets in a traditional mortar. Two people usually worked together- one who would rotate and hydrate the rice, and the other who would pound the rice. The sticky mass is then kneaded by hand, and the resulting mochi may then be shaped into a ball or a cube. Samurai warriors would carry mochi with them to tie them over long journeys, and farmers who worked long hours outside would eat mochi for the concentrated amount of energy the food provides.
Rice Flour is Used to Make Modern Mochi
The rice-pounding days have understandably went out of style due to the labour involved. Nowadays, mochi is usually made with the refined flour of sweet rice, called mochiko, unless traditional ceremony calls for the no short-cut version. This white sweet rice flour is mixed with water, cooked and stirred on the stovetop until it forms a slightly transparent cake.
In Japan, mochi is popular not only during the New Year’s celebrations, but also on Children’s Day, Girl’s Day, and during the Spring season, when a special kind of mochi, the sakura-mochi, is made to slightly resemble a cherry blossom (the Japanese symbol).
Green Cuisine Makes Mochi from Scratch-Not From Rice Flour
Another interesting product on their shelves is mochi, made from organic sticky brown rice which is steamed, pounded with a special machine, and kneaded into a dough. This mochi preserves some of the original goodness of traditional mochi, such as higher nutrition due to quality ingredients, and greater ease of digestion. Once the dough is cooled, it is packaged into blocks for sale. Three flavours of mochi are available: brown rice mochi, sesame mochi, and raison-cinnamon mochi.
If you are an endurance athlete, or work on a farm, you can eat mochi often for your complex carbs. Expectant mothers can benefit from this nutritious food.
The Taste Test
I took on the task of trying the Green Cuisine cinnamon-raison mochi, since I love how cinnamon and raison tastes together. I followed the instructions on the package and cut the solid slab into pieces. Maybe I had a dull knife, but I had to really press into the cake to cut it. I heated the oven, put the mochi pieces onto a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet, and then stuck the mochi into the oven. I wasn’t expecting much. When I checked on the mochi I saw that they had puffed up. How cool! I decided they were ready and took them out of the oven for a taste test. They were hot, so I waited for a few minutes. When I took a bite of mochi, I was pleasantly surprised. It was warm, soft and chewy, with just a hint of sweetness. I don’t think it would have tasted the same if the mochi was made with processed rice flour.