Mochi is a traditional Japanese food that is so versatile it works well with a variety of dishes, yet it often flies under the radar. If you’ve never had mochi, then you’re missing out on a deliciously sweet delicacy, a tasty savory snack, or something in between.
When it comes to mochi, the choice is yours!
However, you do need to be careful when eating mochi and be aware of all the dangers that come with it. Don’t know what we mean?
Read on to find out! We’re here to discuss all things mochi – from its place in Japanese culture to its ingredients, texture, and the dangers that can come with eating it.
What is Mochi?
Mochi is a term that covers all kinds of Japanese rice cakes. They have a wide range of styles and flavors and can be paired with a variety of meals.
Mochi is a dish rooted in Japanese culture. In the past, it was considered to be a sacred food, believed to have held a divine presence. It would be eaten as a form of prayer, for health and good fortune.
Making and eating mochi is linked to many Japanese traditions, such as Japanese New Year. Today, it is eaten throughout the year and is considered a classic example of Japanese cuisine.
Mochi is served in Japanese restaurants all across America.
What is Mochi Made From?
The main ingredient in mochi is called mochigome. Mochigome is a type of short-grain rice, normally “glutinous rice”. Alternatively, mochi can be made using steamed brown rice. Occasionally, other ingredients will be added to make mochi, such as water, sugar, and cornstarch.
How is Mochi Prepared?
In Japan, preparing mochi is a ceremony known as “mochitsuki” which translates to “pounding mochi”. To make mochi, it is best to use plain rice, like glutinous rice. It is prepared by steaming the rice, and then pounding it until it becomes a smooth blend.
The mochi is placed in a mortar with added water. A wooden mallet is used to pound it until it becomes smooth and fine. If the mochi seems dry, more water is added until it reaches the desired consistency.
By doing this, the mochi becomes moist and pliable. Once this step has been achieved, the mochi is torn into little pieces and shaped into semi-flat circles.
Is Mochi Gluten-Free?
Yes, mochi is in fact gluten-free! Glutinous rice is the primary (and sometimes only) ingredient used when making mochi and this is grain-free! So feel free to enjoy your mochi with ease!
Note: Always make sure the mochi you are about to eat is gluten-free before eating. While this is usually the case, it cannot always be guaranteed.
What Does Mochi Taste Like?
If eaten on its own with no extra food or flavorings, mochi tastes like gummy candy combined with marshmallows. Thanks to the rice, it has a starchy aftertaste.
Mochi can be flavored with an abundance of ingredients. Popular choices are sweeteners, green tea, herbs, but there are so many more! You can include a wide range of fillings with your mochi, too.
Why not try sweetened bean paste if you have a sweet tooth? Or, try making tofu mochi if you prefer something a bit more savory!
Mochi has a variety of textures, including soft, chewy, and sticky.
Traditional Types of Mochi
There are many different kinds of mochi! Some are traditional for different times in the year, while some come in unique shapes. Here are some examples!
Ohagi / Botamochi
The type of mochi traditionally eaten during Japanese New Year celebrations and other holidays. They can also be enjoyed throughout the year. Hisimochi is also enjoyed at New Year celebrations.
This is a tradition for Japanese spring. Sakura means “cherry blossom”, and the Sakura mochi are eaten to celebrate cherry blossoms opening in Tokyo. They are pink and filled with sweet red beans.
This type of mochi looks like a flower and is normally filled with either sour mandarin or sweet red beans.
This mochi is typically enjoyed at summer events and festivals. They aren’t as sticky as other types of mochi and are filled with a litchi filling, strawberry filling, or a sour mandarin filling.
How To Prepare and Eat Mochi
If you are eating fresh mochi, it is best enjoyed on the same day it was made. Fresh mochi is soft and chewy, but it gets harder the longer you leave it, making it difficult to chew.
Mochi can be enjoyed as a snack, dessert, and more! It’s considered to be an essential ingredient in a variety of Japanese hot pot meals, such as Sukiyaki, and soups, such as Zoni – the traditional meal for Japanese New Year!
Mochi can also be baked, fried, and grilled, so don’t be afraid to get creative!
The Dangers of Eating Mochi
Every year, Japanese authorities issue a warning about eating mochi. At the turn of the year in Japan, people end up in critical conditions or die from suffocation after mochi gets stuck in their throat, due to its stickiness.
In 2015, 9 people died from suffocation. In 2017, it was 2 people.
Mochi must be chewed well before swallowing, if not, it can get stuck in the throat which can lead to suffocation. Japanese authorities advise cutting the mochi into smaller pieces before eating, especially for young people and the elderly, who are more likely to choke on mochi.
Mochi is a traditional Japanese staple once linked to good fortune and health. Today, it is eaten throughout the year and is especially enjoyed at Japan’s New Year celebrations.
It is normally made from glutinous, grain-free rice and can be enjoyed in a plethora of ways – as a sweet dessert or part of a bigger meal, like Zoni or Sukiyaki.
It is naturally plain, so it can be flavored in many ways to suit the individual, and is always sticky and chewy in texture.
However, mochi’s stickiness means you must be careful when eating. Try cutting it into smaller pieces or chewing it a lot before swallowing, especially if the individual eating the mochi is a young or elderly person.
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