Japanese sweets and desserts are delicious, colorful and unique, and that’s the reason why, they are so popular around the world. Most of Japanese desserts are a combination of mochi and fruits and nuts. Japanese are food lovers, and mochi is their favorite food and since Japanese love rice, it not surprising that most of Japanese dishes, including mochi is made from rice. Mochi is an indispensable item for all Japanese ceremonial feasts and it is a well known food worldwide for its densely chewy texture and mild sweetness.
What is mochi?
Mochi is a Japanese rice cake made of glutinous rice, pounded into paste and molded into shape. It is usually round shaped or cut into square pieces. Japanese thought that the power of rice was made purer by pounding and mochi was believed to contain the ‘spirit of rice’.
In Japan, mochi is traditionally made in a ceremony called mochitsuki. The preparation of mochi requires two persons. While one person pounds the steamed rice into dough with a traditional mortar and mallet, the other person turns over rice each time it is pounded. Mochi is eaten plain, coated with sugar and toasted soybean flour or traditionally filled with red bean paste or other fillings.
Now let’s take a look at two popular dishes made with mochi.
Zoni – Zoni is a delicious and healthy Japanese soup containing mochi rice cakes. It’s a Japanese tradition to eat Zoni on New Year’s holiday and the ingredients vary region to region. In some regions it is flavored with dried bonito stock and soy sauce and in other regions it is flavored with shiro miso.
Apart from Japanese dishes, mochi is also used to make a traditional Japanese New Year decoration called Kagami Mochi. It is made with two mochi cakes, the smaller mochi cake atop the larger mochi cake, with a small daidai orange (Japanese bitter orange) placed on top. Though some people make this decoration, it is available on sale everywhere in varying sizes, prices and qualities.
Easy to make, tasty and colorful Japanese desserts are served not only in Japanese restaurants, but around the world. They not only look good and taste good, but they nutritious and have several health benefits.
Why mochi is used in Japanese desserts?
There are a variety of Japanese desserts made with mochi. Many people have wondered why mochi which is made of rice is used to make desserts. It is because mochi adds a hint of rice flavor to the dessert and the slightly chewy texture of mochi can be combined with various flavors, fruits and nuts to make mouth-watering desserts. And it is because of this mochi that Japanese desserts are world renowned!!!
Japanese mochi desserts
A few Japanese desserts made with mochi are
Daifuku – It is a Japanese confection consisting of small round mochi, filled commonly with sweet red bean paste.
Mochi is no doubt delicious to eat, but there are many instances where people (especially the elderly people) have died because of the sticky mochi getting lodged in the throat and blocking the airways, causing suffocation. Every year hundreds of people are hospitalized because of eating mochi. Since mochi is consumed in a large scale during New Year, most of the deaths are in the beginning of the month of January, spoiling all the New Year fun. The victims are all above the age of 65 years. Between 2006 and 2009, 18 people died of mochi suffocation in Tokyo[Source]. In 2011, 8, people died in Japan and an additional 18 people were hospitalized [Source] and in 2012, 2 people died and 15 people were hospitalized[Source]. According to the Tokyo Fire Department, 2 men died and 15 other men and women were hospitalized due to mochi chocking after 2013 New year celebration[Source]. Though The National Police Agency and Fire and Disaster Management Agency repeatedly appeal to the elders to eat mochi carefully, without swallowing, by cutting into small pieces, many people apparently ignore this advice.
Off-course, undoubtedly, you should try out the various mochi dishes when you visit Japan, but make sure that you bite it and eat it slowly, chewing it properly without swallowing, enjoying the chewy texture and the mild sweetness, which will linger in your mouth even after you return back home.