These mochi dango are among the most popular, often consumed in Japan.
All Japanese have a kagami mochi at home in the New Year, which must be broken once New Year is over
There are all kinds of daifuku, like white or black sesame, or arrowroot with red bean in the centre
Abekawa mochi is sprinkled with toasted soybean powder
Sweet bean-filled mochi wrapped in a cherry leaf, sakura mochi is the most Japanese of all mochi
Zenzai is a dessert served hot or cold. For once it is mochi in azuki, and not vice versa!
Japanese Rice Cake
This traditional snack is customarily had at New Years, and is also very popular in many Japanese desserts.
To make mochi, steamed rice is needed, but not just any: specifically, mochigome, that is to say, sticky rice. It is rinsed and pounded while still hot until it turns into a sticky dough.
Mochi for New Years
Generally, two or three men carry out this task. First, two men pound the mochi with wooden mallets. The third man gives the pace, shouting "ichi, ni, san..." ("one, two, three...") to prevent the mallets colliding, but also so that his hand is not crushed while turning and wetting the hot paste. This event, known as mochitsuki, is a real celebration and is often done on the streets and in public.
The paste then hardens and can be stored for several weeks. Mochi is the star ingredient during Shogatsu, the Japanese New Year, which is why many mochitsuki are organized towards the end of December.
It is then consumed in large quantities, which unfortunately causes several deaths each year, with people choking on the sticky rice.
The kagami mochi cakes are served at New Year for the Shinto ceremony of the mirror, during which they are broken and eaten (often while they are a bit rotten).
Although there are some savory recipes using mochi, it is mainly used in desserts. A brief overview of the main treats that can be made from this sticky rice paste:
- The abekawa mochi (or kinako mochi), mochi ball sprinkled with toasted soy powder.
- The daifuku mochi is a treat with a center made of azuki (red bean paste). It is an extremely popular dessert and many regions have their own recipe.
- The dango mochi is a kind of skewer with three little balls of mochi (sometimes of different colors). You can have it plain, grilled or not, and coated with a kind of soy sauce-based caramel.
- The sakura mochi is a treat enjoyed during hanami. The dough is pink and sweet, filled with azuki, and wrapped with a cherry leaf.
- The zenzai, sweet red bean soup served hot or cold, with melted mochi: a homemade dessert which the Japanese are crazy for.