Magnificent Mochi

Yesterday was Shimane Chuo High School’s Sports Festival. Students were divided into teams by class and played soccer, basketball, and tennis all day long.

I didn’t watch a single game…because I was making mochi all day.

A group of three teachers (including myself) and three students’ mothers worked from 9:00am until 4:00pm – making mochi for students and staff to eat throughout the day. It was the best day I have yet had in Japan. We used our hands, our minds, and our hearts to produce an absolutely outrageous amount of mochi. Most of the mochi was eaten hot and fresh by hungry students and teachers (and myself), and the rest was put into take-home baggies and given away. I ate about seven pieces of mochi and had to lie down for a while. My system is not used to glutinous rice…

The process of making mochi is simple and time-consuming:

1. Soak the mochi rice overnight, then rinse it extremely well.

2. Steam the rice for approximately forty minutes.

3. Put the steamed rice in an electric mixer and add water until the texture is perfect (which you only know if you’ve made mochi before).

*Note: You don’t have to use the electric mixer, but I’m assuming we did in this case to save time and strength through the numerous batches we prepared.

4. Pound the mochi! We pounded the mochi fifteen to twenty times to get it to the right consistency. One person swings the kine (mallet), while the other reaches into the usu (wooden bowl) and flips the mochi back onto itself between each pounding.

5. Pinch of small pieces, roll them into balls, and serve!

We served the mochi in a variety of ways:

1. Isobe: the Mochi Sandwich
– make the mochi into patties using potato starch to keep it from sticking to your hands
– toast the patties in a skillet
– dunk the browned patties in shoyu
– wrap a piece of dried nori around the mochi
– serve with shichimi togarashi

2. Abikawa: Everyone’s Favorite
– coat the fresh mochi with a mixture of kinako (roasted soybean flour) and sugar

3. Dunk mochi patties in satojouyu (a mixture of sugar and shoyu)

4. Fill mochi patties with anko (sweet bean paste)

We also added a variety of ingredients to the mochi during the mixing and pounding process:

1. Yomogi – Mugwort. Turns the mochi a delightful green, and looks beautiful when filled with anko.

2. Egoma – a unique variety of sesame seed that this area is famous for.

One of the students’ mothers also brought some treats for us to enjoy in addition to the mochi:

Fresh figs and chestnuts boiled with sugar and shouyu – labor intensive but so delicious.

We also peeled and halved some fresh persimmons from one of the mothers’ homes.

I even learned how to fold a newspaper to make the perfect food-scrap container.

It was the most delicious day.

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