Mochi is a traditional Japanese food made from pounded glutinous rice, also known as sweet or sticky rice. Despite being called "glutinous", this rice does not contain gluten and so should not be problematic for people with allergies to it. It is cholesterol free and low in fat.

While rather bland on its own, mochi easily takes on a range of flavours and textures and can be deep-fried, baked, grilled, stuffed, used as dumplings in a soup, or treated as a dessert or sweet.

Mochi is often readily available at health food shops as well as at Japanese markets. It is not terribly complex to make, but the process is time consuming and requires some physical exertion. Consequently, a family or gathering of people will come together and cook and pound out a huge quantity of mochi all at once.

How To Make Mochi
Soak glutinous rice overnight. Place the rice in a wooden steaming box with a removeable bamboo bottom and place over a pot of boiling water. (Or just boil the rice.) When the rice is completely cooked, in fact a little over-cooked, remove from the heat and slide out the bamboo base of the box and transfer the rice to a large stone or wooden mortar (or perhaps a very large shallow bowl set on the floor).

Mush the rice about a bit with a wooden mallet (perhaps a meat tenderizing mallet will do). Push the rice down into the mortar as hard as you can. Now bring the mallet down on the rice with quite a bit of force but not enough to cause it to spill. When using a traditional mallet and mortar, this would be done standing; if you are using a wooden bowl set on the floor, then kneel in front of it. As the rice becomes mashed together, begin to strike it with more and more force.

When it has become a paste, knead it several times and then continue to pound it with the mallet. Repeat this process until the rice has become one solid, indistinguishable mass. Roll the mochi into a ball. If you can do this, it is done.

Take the ball of mochi to a work table and roll it out with a rolling pin. Cut it into 1 inch or 1 1/2 inch pieces.

That's it.

If you would like to read a few things that you can do with either home-made or purchased mochi then you are welcome to go here.

Mochi, sticky rice cakes, are a traditional Japanese food for new year celebrations. They have also acquired a negative fame for being, on occasion, deadly. Each year, 10-20 people suffocate from mochi on new year's day, in most cases senior citizens. This is not too difficult to imagine if you've ever eaten mochi: they have the consistency of chewing gum, so that if you have your mouth full of the stuff, there's not way to get it down safely. The smart thing to do is, of course, only bite off as much as you can swallow at once.

"Glutinous rice", dutifully recites every single Japanese guidebook as its description of mochi, almost certainly without the faintest idea of what on earth glutinous actually means, but not willing to confess their ignorance publicly. Mochi does not even contain gluten, for one...

Mochi is made by cooking a special type of rice, placing it in a barrel of sorts, and repeatedly pounding it with a giant mallet until it becomes one great big sticky blob. The resulting stuff has a texture somewhere between smooth peanut butter and chewing gum, but is almost entirely tasteless. By tradition, every family prepares mochi on New Year's Eve, and by tradition every year several dozen people choke to death on it.

Just the same, mochi forms one of the cornerstones of Japanese confectionery, and it can in fact be quite palatable if consumed in limited quantities and mixed with something else -- preferably anko.

sensei gives a truly daunting recipie for mochi. This one is a little less involved, until you try to pull the mochi off of the aluminum foil.
But it’s just like what Auntie Yvonne used to make . . .

How to make sweet mochi

Sift together the rice flour and sugar. Mix in coconut milk and water, beat until mostly smooth. Line (bottom and sides) an 11x13 cake pan with aluminum foil and oil it. Pour the thick mixture in to the oiled cake pan. Cover the pan tightly with another piece of oiled foil. Bake at 325 for 1 hour. Remove from oven and let cool 1-2 hours before attempting to pry the ensuing mass from the foil. Cut into small pieces and dust with cornstarch to keep from sticking.

If you and your shiftless friends like your mochi in funny colors, you can add a few drops of food coloring in the initial mixing.
You can also put about 3 tablespoons of matcha, the powdered green tea leaves, you will get a nicely flavored mochi in a pretty emerald color.
If you would like to try and make daifuku, take your aduki beans and attempt to make little cakes of the mochi, with a bit of red bean paste inside. Perhaps a highly oiled cupcake pan would work? Or just mix some red bean paste into the initial mixing for a nice pink color.

The chi in Japanese mochi is an ancient Chinese word, ci2, which can be written a few different ways. Modern Chinese call mochi ci2-ba1 in standard Mandarin, and in Taiwanese it is called moaN-chî”sesame ci2”, although sesame is not necessarily used in flavoring it. A number of Han dynasty sources describe this food as a sort of “cake” made from rice powder and steamed, but the descriptions are somewhat inconsistent among themselves, and there are similar foods with different names in the old books.

I have seen mochi made in the Chinese countryside, in an unelectrified village, the old-fashioned way. Glutinous rice is pounded in a huge mortar and pestle with a little water, until it forms a smooth and tender dough that is then steamed to make it edible. One person pounds with the pestle, and the other periodically adjusts the position of the lump of dough in the stone mortar. The latter has the more dangerous job, it seemed to me.

Because mochi is made from glutinous rice, even when fully cooked it is considered somewhat harsh on the stomach, and most people eat only small quantities of it. People with sensitive stomachs avoid it altogether. It figures widely in offering-foods placed before gods, ancestral spirit-tablets, and so on. In some places in Taiwan and Fujian it is dyed a brilliant red for these purposes. I have also eaten it in Longyan flavored with ramie leaf, which gives it a shocking green color. I have always eaten it sweet, although sometimes savory fillings may be put into the sweet dough. The Chinese concept of what should be sweet and what should be savory differs somewhat from the Western concept

Extremely fine-textured and tender mochi is now available in many places in the southern Chinese cultural world. Enjoy it if you have the chance to! For my part, though, I think the tastiest mochi I ever had was a pink variety my wife and I found in a little shop in Kyoto. It was flavored with some delicate flower. Ah, Kyoto! how I long to return...

Mochi is so much more than any other Japanese treat. It is such a central part of many autumn and winter events that if you are living in or visiting Japan at this time of year, expect to participate in mochi mashing at some point. In fact, schools, towns, businesses throughout the countryside have special mochi making festivals in which all members have a turn at the giant hammer/pestle. It seems to me mochi is most often made in large, community groups, rather than in the home.

The glutinous rice is cooked in large, woodburning ovens, tended to by the women. It is usually the men who pound the rice into mochi, although kids and visiting foreigners are given a chance as well. Once the massive lump of mochi is deemed ready, it is passed to the womenfolk, who quickly, before the mochi cools off too much, roll it into small balls and package it into plastic baggies.

Recently, the second level students at my junior high school held a mochi festival. Each of the classes in the grade set up an oven, a table for prepping the mochi and of course, the giant mortar. Everyone cheered on the students pounding the rice and when the time came, the girls quickly and effeciently made up the mochi balls. But, as will happen when you have 40 fourteen-year old kids and a table covered in flour and sticky goo, play fights became the norm once the day's activities were coming to a close. I left for the staffroom when I realized that once everyone was covered in flour that I would become the next victim.

The most delightful treat, however, was handed to me at this festival before chaos ensued. Mochi is rather tasteless whereas anko can be a little overwhelming to the western palate. My students floored my tastebuds with a combination of the two wrapped around a fresh strawberry. I never imagined beans, rice and strawberries could go so well together. I imagine also that this treat would only taste as good fresh off the production line rather than out of a freshness sealed container.

Mochi also plays an important role in the celebrations of a new house. The other day I was invited to a mochi-maki for the opening of one of my student's new home. I asked if I should bring anything, like flowers or something that we would traditionally bring to a housewarming in the west. I was told that I should bring a plastic bag and, if I felt necessary, a hard hat. I didn't understand until today. When I arrived, I was handed a bag (I thought they were joking) and stood in a crowd at the entrance of the house. The builders and the landlord of the house (Haruna's father and the vice principal at one of the elementary schools where I work) scrammled onto the roof and proceeded to throw handfulls of mochi at those gathered below. For five minutes, we all scrambled to fill our bags with as much mochi as we could while trying to avoid being knocked unconcious. We then stood around for another five minutes comparing who had the biggest catch.

Mochi - Deadly Weapon in the Fight Against Aging Society

If you're visiting Japan, especially in the winter season, forget about ninjas or poisonous blowfish. Your caution should be squarely focused on Japan's true culinary ninja -- while appearing to be a harmless block of rice starch, mochi is ready and willing to cleanse Japan of its unwanted elements.

You might hear that mochi, due to its stretchiness when heated, is symbolic of long life. This is the reason that mochi and toshikoshi-soba are traditionally eaten on New Year's Day. WRONG. This is all part of a Japanese Government plot to kill the elderly.

You may be familiar with Japan's aging society crisis. Here's the story: The Japanese are really healthy, especially the elderly, the one group that Coca-Cola Corp. and MacDonald's cannot effectively target. They refuse to die, stubbornly collecting pensions four years longer than their American counterparts. Because they don't die, there's a lot of them. Because Japanese birth rates are at all-time lows, in about 20 or 30 years, there will be a higher rate of retired elderly to working-age citizens than the Japanese economy can support. One of the unpleasant side-effects will be a labour shortage, requiring more and more foreign workers.

The solution? Kill 'em! Japan Tobacco, a 66% government-owned corporation, tries its best to kill the elderly by giving away millions of cigarettes on Keiro no Hi, Respect for the Aged Day. However, this plan is staved off by the cancer-fighting powers of renegade beverage green tea. There are also medical costs associated with the unpleasant, lingering death. A better weapon was needed. Instead of relying on the tried-and-true American method of poor diet and neglect, Japan has found a traditional solution -- rice cakes.

Every year, mochi deaths hit their peak during the week period of December 26 and January 3. As respected noder gn0sis notes above, most mochi deaths are caused by asphyxiation brought on by choking on warm mochi. Obviously, it's pretty hard to kill yourself on a blob of rice starch... unless you're physically frail or just generally clueless. This method of mochi death accurately targets the two most unwanted groups -- the elderly and foreigners.

Like ninja, mochi can kill you in more than one way. Another common application of mochi is in certain celebrations, most notably, the mochi-maki that respected noder liontamer describes above. The uncooked mochi, resembling ultra-dense, gravity-powered, white bricks of death, rains shuriken-like down upon crowds, striking those either too slow (elderly) or too stupid (foreigners) to get out of the way.

When I attended the Uni Matsuri in Haboro this year, an announcement was made prior to the mochi-maki: "Small children should not participate due to the danger of falling mochi." This makes sense -- killing them off in the crossfire would undermine efforts to reverse the aging society. Of course, there was no warning for the seniors, and no attempt to make an English announcement for the foreigners. I saw no confirmed fatalities, but I was a bit preoccupied with getting the hell out of the line of fire.

So, when you get back from Japan, and everyone asks if you tried fugu, you can tell them, "If you thought the poisonous blowfish was deadly, you should see the rice cakes!"

For more amusing reading on the subject of killer mochi, please see:

PS. Although most of this is satirical, it is true that mochi causes more deaths than fugu. (I'm pretty sure that mochi is consumed a lot more often than fugu, though.) At any rate, be careful, especially if you're trying it for the first time.

PPS. Oh yeah, the bit about Japan Tobacco is also true.

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