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From sweet to savory, there are various types of mochi (Japanese rice cake) we enjoy in Japan. Here’s a quick and easy guide to making three different delicious flavors for your mochi at home.
After I shared my recipe for the Japanese New Year mochi soup called Ozoni, I received a lot of feedback from my readers regarding the “mochi” I added to the soup. They were surprised that I added mochi in the savory soup and asked me if it’s sweet. The feedback made me realize that the Japanese and non-Japanese see the word “mochi” quite differently.
When you hear the word “mochi,” what’s the first thing that comes to your mind? Many of you think of the round mochi that is stuffed with some kind of sweet filling such as red bean paste or chocolate, strawberry, mango, etc for more modern flavors.
However, in Japan, we usually call that type of sweet mochi daifuku. So what is mochi then?
What Is Japanese Mochi (餅)?
When we say mochi in Japan, it usually implies plain mochi – either freshly made or cut packaged mochi available at the supermarkets.
Photo credit: (left) Miyuki Meinaka, (top right) Pixeltoo, (bottom right) Kropsoq via Wikimedia Commons.
Mochi is a Japanese rice cake made of mochigome (糯米), a short-grain japonica glutinous rice. The rice is pounded into a paste (left pic) and molded into the desired shapes such as round shape mochi, maru mochi (top right pic).
When we eat mochi at home, we buy kiri mochi (bottom right pic) that are individually packaged in plastic bags.
How To Enjoy Japanese Mochi At Home?
The freshly made Japanese mochi can be included as part of savory or sweet dishes. For savory dishes, mochi is used as a topping for miso soup, Ozoni, and hot udon noodle soup (we call this menu Chikara Udon (力うどん)). It can also be added inside Okonomiyaki.
For sweets, we use Japanese mochi to make Mochi Ice Cream, Zenzai (Oshiruko), Strawberry Daifuku, and more.
Making mochi from glutinous rice takes a long time and effort, therefore most families don’t make mochi from scratch anymore. If we want to enjoy freshly pound mochi, we can do so by attending a mochi pounding event or some folks buy a small Japanese mochi pounding machine at home for this task (some of the Japanese bread makers have an option for mochi pounding!).
These days to enjoy mochi all year round and during the Japanese New Year, we can buy this pre-cut Japanese mochi (kiri mochi, 切り餅) from the supermarkets.
Today I’ll show you the 3 most popular recipes to enjoy mochi using the kiri mochi. Each family cooks the mochi differently based on their preference. My family (in Japan) loves crispy toasted mochi rather than boiled mochi, so we always toast mochi first before flavoring. Read the note section of the recipe for the microwaving and boiling method.
Types of Japanese Mochi
Here are the three flavors we make today: Anko Mochi, Kinako Mochi, and Isobeyaki.
Anko Mochi (餡子餅) is a mochi where we place red bean paste inside the mochi.
Kinako Mochi (きな粉餅) is mochi coated with a mixture of kinako (roasted soybean flour) and sugar.
Isobeyaki (磯辺焼き) is mochi coated with a mixture of soy sauce and sugar and wrapped with nori seaweed. Most people prefer Isobeyaki without sugar, but my family always makes it with sugar. I assume this is not based on regional differences, but it depends on the family’s preference.
What’s your favorite? When I was growing up, I couldn’t pick my favorite… So for the Japanese New Year Day, I used to eat six pieces of mochi – two in Ozoni, two Anko, one Kinako, and one Isobeyaki. I wish I am young again so I could eat six pieces of mochi in one sitting without worrying about increasing my waist size!
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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on January 19, 2015. The post has been published in December 2021.