Mochi (rice cake) refers to a kind of food which is produced by adding water to grain, especially mochi-gome (glutinous rice), heating, thereafter, kneading, applying an external force and shaping the kneaded mixture, and mochi is also called tsuki-mochi (pounded rice cake). In addition, a kind of food which is produced by adding water to 'grain powder,, kneading, and steaming the kneaded mixture, is also called mochi in various countries in the world and, in Japan, is also called neri-mochi (kneaded mochi), however, mochi often refers to tsuki-mochi in Japan.
Mochi-tsuki (pounding boiled rice into mochi) is Japan's unique production method of 'tsuki-mochi.'
Tsuki-mochi is also able to be produced even without any rotary-kernite-type stone mill. On the other hand, mochi-tsuki also has an aspect as a Shinto ritual. To be strict, in areas such as the Chinese cultural zone, there is only 'neri-mochi (kneaded mochi) which is the kind of mochi represented by those as cakes in Japan,' however, there are two types of mochi, 'tsuki-mochi' and 'neri-mochi' in Japan whose production methods and materials are different from those of each other.
In Japan, mochi made using glutinous rice is more common. The production method of tsuki-mochi is as follows: glutinous rice is first polished and is dipped into water for a sufficient length of time; thereafter, the water is removed; the glutinous rice is wrapped in a steaming cloth; and is steamed in a steaming basket, etc. Next, the steamed glutinous rice is pounded using a pestle and a mortar until the glutinous rice grains lose their shape, and the pounded glutinous rice is the shape described in the 'main types of mochi' below. Finally, pieces of the shaped glutinous rice is flavored or wrapped around 'an' (sweet bean paste) or kinako (roasted-soybean powder) to eat.
In China, they have a kind of food which is produced by hardening steamed glutinous rice, however, the production method consists of steamed glutinous rice is spread in a shallow container and is pressed to become hardened and, therefore, its production method is different from that of Japan's tsuki-mochi.
In China, they call their rice cake 'nuò-mĭ-gāo' (glutinous rice sweet cake), 'nuò-mĭ-cí' (glutinous rice food), etc., not using the Chinese character meaning 'mochi.'
In Japan, there had been a belief in paddy cultivation since the ancient days and the Imperial Court started to recommend this belief during the Heian period and this belief was especially conspicuous in this period. This belief was handed down to the present and mochi is a kind of good-luck food indispensable for events held on a special day such as New Year's Day and on an ordinary days. Therefore, because mochi made from a paddy-based material such as rice is convenient and is easy to make and process in addition to the above reason, various tsuki-mochi cultures are formed.
There are two types, kaku-mochi (square mochi) and maru-mochi (round mochi) which are commercially available currently in Japan: one that uses glutinous rice without any processing as its base material; and the other that uses shiratama-ko powder (rice flour). The former and the latter differ in the market price from each other and the former is priced higher. It is said that the former is also more excellent than the latter in: taste; firmness to the bite which controls the chewing property; the degree of swelling when toasted; the degree of melting when boiled; the degree of stretching and stickiness; etc. There is even some inexpensive tsuki-mochi which is made from glutinous rice flour with starch added from like a potato, etc.
Tsuki-mochi is convenient as emergency food to be used when a disaster occurs, etc., because: a piece of tsuki-mochi of the size of a match box has a calorific value equal to that of a bowl of rice; bagged products are available in which each piece of tsuki-mochi is individually packaged and is able to be preserved for a long time; and tsuki-mochi is easily available.
Kind (maru-mochi and kaku-mochi)
The same production method is used in every area in Japan to process by pounding boiled glutinous rice, however, the shaping method used following this process differs between Kanto Region and Kansai Region (except kagami-mochi: literally, mirror mochi, which is round mochi offered to deify at the New Year's Day). In Kansai Region, maru-mochi (round mochi) is the mainstream which is shaped by kneading and rounding mochi with hands right after pounding it. On the other hand, in the Kanto Region, 'kaku-mochi' (square mochi) is mainstream, produced by first shaping mochi into boards after pounding it and cutting it into square pieces later on when it has cooled. In Kanto Region, pounded mochi which is still board-shaped is also sold and this mochi is cut at each home into desired sizes and is eaten. This is also called 'kiri-mochi' (cut mochi).
There are many kinds of mochi in mainland China, areas in Korean Peninsula, southeast Asia, etc. In ancient times, neri-mochi referred to powdered food which is produced by processing wheat into farina, spreading it into a flat sheet, hardening it, and heating it, however, later on, neri-mochi referred to such kinds of powder food as those made from other food materials such as barley, millet, corn, etc. Neri-mochi mentioned herein refers to that which is produced mainly by grinding glutinous rice into powder, adding hot water to the powder, and kneading the mixture, and this type of neri-mochi includes: gyuhi (Turkish delight) such as habutae-mochi, shiratama (rice-flour dumpling), and chimaki (bamboo-leaf-wrapped rice cake) in Japan; 'shuĭ-mó-nián-gāo' (water-polished new year rice cake) in China; 'tokku' (small round mochi to be put in boiled soup) in Korea; etc. These kinds of mochi which are produced using grain powder is flavored mainly by sweetness, and sometimes salty flavor is added (some of them are very salty). Sour flavor is rare for these kinds of mochi as examples while sour flavor is sometimes used for 'suama' (plain sweet rice cake) in Japan.
Yuĕ-bing (moon cake) and mán-tou (dumpling) originated from Chinese cooking are established by developing and improving 'mochi' made from wheat flour, and it is sometimes said that noodles branched off from this. In Japanese cakes, there are examples of kinds of food which are called 'mochi' such as 'soba-mochi' and which are generally called manju (dumpling) in Japan.
Mochi-tsuki (mochi pounding)
Generally, December 29th at the end of the year is called kunchi-mochi (mochi on the 9th) because of the sound 'ku-wo-tsuku' (literally, to pound nine, meaning to pound agony) and there is a custom of avoiding pounding and purchasing mochi only on this day among the several days at the end of the year and, on the other hand, in some areas, the 29th is welcomed reading 29 as fuku (happiness) taking another way of reading the numbers 2 and 9. In 1974, small electric (automatic) mochi pounding machines started to prevail and the scene of classical mochi pounding became less seen in the ordinary homes, however, the classical mochi pounding is currently still popular as an event held by a neighborhood association or a children's association, and gives a poetic touch to the end of the year. Electric mochi pounding machines are used more where workers are insufficient and mochi pounding by human labor is impossible in a rice store having a rice mill which produces a large amount of mochi, a Japanese-cake store which sells mochi cakes, a farming household whose workers are already aged, etc. A mochi pounding machine based on the mechanism of pounding mochi using a pestle and a mortar is often used in commercial mochi production; and a small-sized machine kneads steamed glutinous rice using a spatula in a specific shape that is unique to the manufacturer of the machine, and makes mochi that is in a uniform state as that of pounded mochi in ten and several minutes. Compared to pestle-pounded mochi, mochi which is made by a spatula-kneading-type machine: containing fine foam; and differs in taste in that this mochi becomes too soft when put in zoni (soup which contains vegetables, some kind of meat, and mochi and is served on the New Year's Day), its texture is rough when stretched, etc., however, these two types of mochi are handled to have the almost same taste because there generally are few opportunities to compare pestle-pounded mochi with this machine-kneaded-type of mochi.
How to pound mochi
In order to prevent the head of the pestle from chipping and any small piece of wood from contaminating mochi, the head of the pestle is put in a bucket filled with water to cause the pestle to absorb sufficient water before pounding mochi. When a wooden mortar is used, the mortar must be washed well and be filled with water to cause the mortar to absorb sufficient water. When a dry mortar is used, the mortar may break.
Glutinous rice should: be washed with water; be dipped in water for six to eight hours; and moved to a colander to remove water.
A steaming cloth, a clean bleached cotton cloth or a cloth which is rougher than the cotton cloth is spread on the steaming basket of a steamer and glutinous rice from which water has been removed is put on the cloth and is wrapped in the cloth and, thereafter, the glutinous rice is steamed. It is said that, when the rice is completely steamed, the preferred state of the rice is that holes called crab holes are observed on the surface of the rice or, when a chopstick is inserted into the rice, no rice sticks to the chopstick, however, after the rice is steamed, there is no problem when the rice has no hard core and the rice is steamed to have the hardness which is almost equal to that of festive red rice. When a steamer is not available, there is no problem when selecting the index for glutinous rice on a rice boiler.
The steamed rice is placed into a mortar still wrapped in the cloth. The state of the rice in this stage is that the rice has a hardness equal to that of festive red rice or a little harder.
Glutinous rice put in a mortar is pressed in the mortar by applying the weight of a person who holds the pestle by pressing the grip of the pestle to the persons waist along the outer circumference of the mortar. When necessary, the rice is upset using a spatula or a rice scoop and this causes the rice to quickly become uniformly sticky.
When the rice begins to be sticky to the degree that the all the rice becomes one when it is lifted by the spatula or the rice scoop, this is indicates that it's time to start pounding. The state indicating it is at least ready is when the steamed rice does not scatter when the rice is pounded by the pestle. The surface layer at this time is formed by the mixture of the rice particles which are identifiable and rice which has become mochi.
Pounding is started with the pestle like mochi pounding which is usually observed, however, temizu (water supplied by an assistant to mochi to avoid the sticking between the mochi and the pestle) is added because the mochi sticks to the pestle as the stickiness of mochi increases. Temizu is to provide moisture for the surface of mochi with hands which are wet with water from a bucket. The surface of the rice is considerably hot similarly to that of the boiled rice right after the boiling because only several minutes have passed after the steaming, therefore, it is sufficient to pat the surface of the rice with wet hands.
When temizu is too much, the mochi is soft during the pounding, however, mochi tends to become hard for stretching and shaping conducted later and also tends to become moldy later on.
After pounding mochi is placed on a board on which mochi-tori-ko powder (powder to prevent sticking) is scattered, and is then shaped as desired.
Mochi left on the surfaces of the pestle and the mortar after the mochi pounding must always be removed using a brush, etc.
cf. The sizes of the pestle and the mortar is represented by their diameters in sun (Japanese inch) under the Japanese old measuring system.
Mochi produced by pounding glutinous rice
Noshi-mochi (spread mochi) and kiri-mochi (cut mochi)
Mochi which is formed by spreading pounded mochi with hands into a board having the thickness of around one centimeter. This board-shaped mochi is cut with a knife into desired sizes to be eaten. Mochi which is called kiri-mochi (cut mochi) is a piece of mochi which is cut out from noshi-mochi.
Namako-mochi (trepang-like mochi)
Mochi which is formed by stretching pounded mochi into a half-ecliptic shape which resembles a trepang living in sea. Mochi is cut into pieces having the proper thickness with a knife, etc., to be eaten. This mochi is eaten toasted or fried.
Nori-namako-mochi (see-weed-trepang-like mochi)
Mochi produced by pounding glutinous rice added with aonori (green laver) and shaping the pounded mochi into namako-mochi.
Mame-namako mochi (bean-trepand-like mochi)
Mochi produced by pounding glutinous rice added with kuromame (black bean) and soy beans and shaping the pounded mochi into namako-mochi.
Maru-mochi (round mochi)
Mochi formed by shaping the pounded mochi into a round shape. This mochi is eaten without cutting or cut into plates depending on the size and the shape of the mochi.
Kagami-mochi (mirror mochi)
This mochi is formed by a large piece of maru-mochi (round mochi) and a small piece of maru-mochi placed in a two-tier layout as an offering. This mochi is not eaten during the new year period and, after this mochi becomes hard, is crushed with a wooden hammer, etc., without using any knife in kagami-biraki (a ceremony held on January 11). Of the pieces of crushed kagami-mochi, those of proper sizes are eaten toasted or boiled in soup. Sometimes, some pieces are eaten after being dipped in water, steamed, and again pounded.
Mochi which is produced by being stuck through on a bamboo stick and toasted over a charcoal fire.
Torinoko-mochi (child-bird mochi)
Mochi shaped into a gourd-like shape having no narrow portion to make the shape resemble the shape of a child bird. This mochi is produced from issho-mochi (1.8 L of mochi) following the issho (the whole life) of a human child. There is a custom that this mochi is divided into two of which one is colored in red with shokubeni (red coloring agent for food), and the two are celebrated as kohaku-mochi (mochi in red and white, the lucky color combination), however, in some cases, the mochi is not divided into red and white pieces because to divide the whole life into two is insolent.
Isobe-mochi (seaside mochi)
Mochi produced by roasting kiri-mochi, putting soybean source on it while it is hot, and wrapping mochi with a sheet of seaweed.
Karami-mochi (clung mochi)
This mochi is eaten with grated Japanese radish put on to cling the mochi.
Kinako-mochi (abekawa-mochi) (roasted-soybean-powdered mochi)
Mochi which roasted or boiled in soup: with kinako which is produced by grinding roasted soybeans in a mortar into powder; together with some sugar, both sprinkled on (mixed in) the mochi.
Mochi which is eaten with ground green soybean paste produced by grinding boiled green soybeans using a mortar, etc., clinging the mochi.
Age-mochi (fried mochi)
Mochi produced by cutting mochi into cubes each having a side which is around 1-cm long and frying them, or by frying the scattered pieces of kagami-mochi described above. After frying the pieces of mochi, soybean sauce and spices are sprinkled on the mochi.
Yellow mochi which is produced: by steaming glutinous rice together with a material which is produced by cutting a sweet potato into round slices, boiling the slices, and drying them under sunshine; mixing the two ingredients; steaming and pounding them (kankoro-mochi).
Kusa-mochi (grass mochi)
Green mochi which is produced by mixing mugwort into glutinous rice and pounding the mixture (yomogi-mochi: mugwort mochi).
Brown mochi which is produced by mixing Japanese horse chestnuts into glutinous rice and pounding the mixture.
Hishi-mochi (rhombus-shaped mochi)
Mochi which is put on a doll-displaying stand during the Girl's Festival.
Ankoro-mochi or Bota-mochi
Mochi wrapped in sweet sticky beans.
Mochi which has anko (sweet bean paste) in it.
Hanabira-mochi (petal mochi)
Mochi wrapped burdock.
A kind of rice cake produced by slicing mochi into thin pieces, drying them under the sunshine, and toasting them. Okaki sometimes has soybean source applied on it.
Mochi that includes sweet bean paste in it and which is wrapped in a salted oak tree leaf.
Mochi produced by pounding glutinous rice mixed with ordinary rice.
Mochi eaten with grated radish and juice of citron (bitter orange juice) clinging to the mochi. Some people eat this mochi with ichimi-togarashi (one-taste pepper) on the mochi. We can eat this mochi mainly in Fukuoka and Oita Prefectures.
Mochi which uses glutinous rice and that is not pounded.
Mochi that includes sweet bean paste and is made from domyoji powder which produced by steaming glutinous rice, drying it, and crushing it to some extent, and this mochi is wrapped in a salted cherry tree leaf.
Soft mochi produced by adding sugar and glutinous malt-sugar to glutinous rice and kneading it.
Muchi (oni-muchi: ogre mochi)
Mochi in Okinawa Prefecture produced by kneading mochi powder with water, wrapping it in getto (sannin) leaf, and steaming them.
Mochi wrapped in a bamboo leaf (Chinese chimaki uses a kind of steamed rice).
A kind of Korean mochi
Tokku is produced in an extrusion process using kneaded glutinous-rice powder.
Senbei (iri-mochi: roasted mochi)
A kind of rice cake produced by shaping kneaded mochi in thin slices, drying them under the sunshine, baking them, and applying soybean source, etc., on them.
Those produced using non-glutinous rice
Gohei-mochi (this name has some ways of writing in Chinese characters.)
This mochi is produced by putting non-glutinous-rice mochi on a board, roasting it directly over a fire, and applying miso (fermented soybean paste) on it.
Tsukimi-dango (moon-viewing dumplings)
Some pieces of round mochi each having a size of around a ping pong ball are stacked in a triangular pyramid, and are eaten after they are offered to the moon.
Kushi-dango (skewered dumplings)
Several pieces of round mochi each shaped into a dumpling having a size for eating at a mouthful are skewered to eat. Raw or roasted kushi-dango with sweet-and-salty sauce clinging to it, made from soybean sauce, sugar, and starch powder, is called mitarashi-dango (Mitarai's skewered dumplings) and raw or roasted kushi-dango is also eaten with sweet bean paste with bean skins or with filtered sweet bean paste, made from red beans or green soybeans, clinging to it. Kushi-dango with soybean sauce on it, roasted, and wrapped in a sheet of seaweed, called isobe-dango (seaside dumplings).
Gobo-mochi (burdock-like mochi)
Mochi produced by mixing non-glutinous-rice mochi, brown sugar, etc., and sprinkling mustard on the mixture.
Kusa-mochi (grass mochi)
Though this is a kind of mochi, its material is non-glutinous rice and, when we eat it, we can taste a nice feeling in our mouth because it does not stretch and can be easily bitten off without being sticky, and it includes sweet crushed-red-bean paste in it.
Kashiwa-mochi (oak-leaf-wrapped mochi)
Kashiwa-mochi is made from non-glutinous rice similarly to kusa-mochi and this mochi basically includes filtered sweet red-bean paste in it to enjoy the scent of the rice.
Those that use starch
Kuzu-mochi (arrowroot mochi)
Kuzu-mochi is produced using arrowroot starch or, as a substitute, potato starch, etc.
Warabi-mochi (bracken mochi)
Warabi-mochi is produced using bracken-root starch.
Sotetsu-mochi (cycad mochi)
Sotetsu-mochi is produced using starch of cycad.
Those that use wheat flour
Yakigawa-sakura-mochi (baked-skin cherry mochi) (chomeiji)
This mochi is produced by adding kanbai powder (a processed-glutinous-rice product) to wheat flour, baking it to make a skin, sandwiching sweet bean paste inside the skin, and wrapping them in a salted cherry-tree leaf.
Mochi that uses other materials
Mochi produced by dipping nuts, etc. in water for a couple of days to one week to remove harshness therefrom, thereafter, grinding into powder, and steaming and pounding the powder.
Tochi-mochi (Japanese-horse-chestnut mochi)
Typical pounded-mochi dishes
Yaki-mochi (toasted mochi)
Zoni (soup which contains vegetables, some kind of meat, and mochi and is served on New Year's Day),
Shiruko or o-shiruko (sweet red-bean soup with mochi)
This sweet soup is produced by putting mochi in a soup which is obtained by boiling red beans and is sweetened. This soup is eaten in the abovementioned kagami-biraki.
Mochi which is produced by putting sweet bean paste as an ingredient and wrapping it in mochi. Daifuku which is made from mochi with beans added when the mochi is pounded is called mame-daifuku-mochi (bean big-luck mochi). Daifuku is eaten as is while it is warm and, when it is cooled and becomes hard, it is eaten toasted or fried in oil to be eaten.
Susuri-mochi (sipping mochi)
Mochi pounded soft by adding much water is put in a bucket, etc., filled with water, and is eaten being sipped in the form of a string shaped with hands, however, it is dangerous to do this before getting used to it.
Koyuzu-mochi (small-citron - small bitter orange- mochi)
Udo-mochi (mochi in udo)
Chiăo-nián-gāo (fried new-year cake)
Kogomi-mochi (frozen mochi)
Mochi dried during the coldest period in winter like koya-dofu (bean curd dried in a cold atmosphere). This mochi is produced using often kusa-mochi, and is green. This mochi is used as preserved food and a souvenir.
Mochi pounded with sugar added does not get completely hard even during the coldest period in winter and, therefore, such mochi was conveniently used as food for hunters and mountain-climbers in the old days.
A rhetorical technique to express traditional mochi-pounding which uses a pestle and a mortar is pettan or pettanko.
Accidents where an aged person whose power to swallow has weakened and chokes on a piece of mochi, are increasing with the advancement of an aging society. It is said that, in the shogatsu-sanganichi (the first three days of the year), rescue vehicles are dispatched due to the above-mentioned accidents (not an ambulance but a rescue vehicle must rush to the patient because it is extremely difficult to take out the mochi from the throat). There are cases where, when the nozzle of the hose of a vacuum cleaner is inserted into the mouth of the aged person who has choked on a piece of mochi, the mochi is sucked out and the life of the aged person is just barely saved. Though the above-mentioned method is not sanitary, the method should be used as a final resort because life can not be traded for the sanitary handling of life-saving operations..
It is said that many people die every year due to death by suffocation caused by choking on a piece of mochi. The detailed number of people who die of such suffocation in each year is unknown, however, according to a survey conducted by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, 168 cases were caused by mochi of the 803 cases which could be grasped in 2006 of the cases where people are transported to emergency medical care centers, etc., due to suffocation caused by food. It is also said that 208 people died in just one month of January 1996.
Mochi is manufactured and shipped from companies such as Echigo Seika Co., Ltd., Sato Food Industry (Niigata Prefecture) Co., Ltd., Kimura Food Co., Ltd, Tokyo Mochi Co., Ltd., Date Hompo Co., Ltd., Akafuku-mochi Co., Ltd., Gofuku-mochi, Hatada Co., Ltd., Nobumitsu Seika Co., Ltd., and Johoku Noodle Co., Ltd.