Circles are 丸餅marumochi. Squares are 角餅kakumochi (rectangle board shaped mochi). In white, boiled mochi, in yellow grilled mochi (yakimochi).
These marumochi and kakumochi are made a while before New Year and sold still soft or a little dried. That’s 生餅namamochi (fresh, unprocessed), even if it can be kept months in modern packaging.
So that’s about Japanese tradition and regional variation. But you may wonder what is mochi ? Long story short :
Blocks of pounded cooked sticky rice.
How they make mochi (not me, people do, particularly strong men…) :
That I do, but… well, the result is a little different. I can’t be so violent in my little mortar. Well some Japanese families have the big stone mortar, but these days it’s mostly used to entertain the tourist at marketplaces and fairs. There are “home-bakery” machines that have a program to pound mochi, and they are popular. Well I buy my New Year mochi. Just for the fun, try it some day :
Most of the mochi are sold sealed plastic bags with a stuff to control humidity. You can keep them a while, but as soon as you open, expect them to dry (if let unpacked) or get molds (if you reclose the bag) within 3 to 7 days. So if possible open a pack for what you can eat soon.
Fresh mochi are sold unsealed, well, you have 3 to 7 days…
In case, you have leftovers, it’d better to let them dry (you can still cook them) than get mold (you’d have to throw away).
THE 2 WAYS OF COOKING MOCHI
To boil : place the mochi about 5 minutes in boiling or near boiling water or broth.
To grill : place the mochi about 5 minutes under the broiler/grill of your oven at 250 degree celcius. That can be done on a barbecue or brasero. As the mochi will become soft and nearly liquid, it would fall from a large net or a skewer, so place it either on a thin metallic net, or a metal plate.
Then eat your mochi :
-with a little soy sauce, with nori, with… your choice
-use it in recipes below
NB : You can grill or boil a piece of mochi not too big, that you could keep inside your hand. If it’s bigger, cut the big mochi with a knife.
Cut mochi is called and sold as 切り餅（きりもち）kirimochi.
The most important ingredient of Japanese cuisine is rice. Japanese rice are of the japonica style, they are round and firm. Outside Japan, you can get some sushi rice, or Italian arborio that are of japanica cultivar too. Sticky rice is a different type, it’s called mochigome in Japanese. Rice has different names in Japanese. Kome, okome, the plant. Gohan, meshi when it’s cooked…
The best friend of a Thai green curry is this steamed rice you can grab with your fingers. The steamed rice has another texture and also a different flavor. You should try it.
Steamed rice exists in most Asian cuisines. The Japanese and Thai techniques are similar, and the differences is mostly that in Thailand it tends to be served with a dish in sauce, and by itself in Japan.
This time I have used a Chinese bamboo steamer and a Japanese rice net.
You can use any type of basket, with or without lid. That works better if you place the rice in thin layers, so it’s better to have a wide basket than a deep one, or to superpose several.
If the basket has holes that let the grains of rice go through, you need a net cloth or a cheese close to retain it. Wet the cloth before using it.
If your basket cannot be used on top of a pan, use a big pan, or a slow-cooker, or a rice cooker. Line the bottom with a cloth or kitchen paper, and place a turned down saucer. Place the basket(s) on that stand. Add water in the bottom. Put the lid on the big pan. Did you know? The bamboo steamers are great as the design of the lid makes that when the steam turns into water, it never drops down on the food and showers your steamed food (this is not a big problem for rice, but that can mess the appearance of your steamed dim sum). But grand-ma that was not impressed by Chinese technology would have told you that you can avoid the problem without investing in a steamer. Wrap the lid in a cloth/net, the fabric will absorb and take away the water.
Type of rice :
That should be a sticky rice from any country. Sticky and non-sticky rice are different varietals. Japanese mochigome is a sticky rice. I have used this.
You can cook other types of rice with this technique. That works, but you won’t get the same effect of grains sticking together.
Prepare the rice IN ADVANCE :
-In a bowl “wash” it with water. “Brush” the rice between your hands. Use lukewarm water if you don’t like it cold, but don’t skip that step. Change the water when it becomes very white. Do it again 1 to 3 times till you get a clear water. Drain.
-Cover your rice with hot or cold water and let it at least 2 hours in case of hot water, and 6 hours otherwise. Long soaking is compulsory, otherwise it will take forever to cook.
-Drain the soaked rice, transfer it to the basket. Put to steam.
-You can open and pour a cup of hot water on the rice a few times while it’s steaming. That’s not really necessary, that only speeds up things a little. But as you need to maintain water in the bottom, that’s a way to do it.
-That will take precisely … a certain time. 20 minutes is a minimum, it’s if your rice is well soaked, not in too big amount in the basket. Otherwise be patient.
Some ingredients (pandan leaves, etc) can added to the rice to bring flavor while steaming.
Also, you can find many types garnished “okowa” in Japan. For instance, sekihan (with red azuki), kurihan with chestnut, with edamame (green soya bean), with mushrooms, etc.
The cooked rice is sticky, slightly transparent and it has an al-dente feeling under the tooth. And the flavor is encanting.
I ate it with a fish head green curry, garnished with sliced renkon (lotus roots), red paprika and cubes of konnyaku.
It's the end of O-bon, the season when Japanese ghosts visit friends and relatives… What if we made a French foodie ghost turn himself in his grave ? I'm calling M. Gaston Gerard, mayor of Dijon many decades ago. He was famous for his recipe of chicken with mustard and cheese. I adapted the recipe, slightly… (I suppose now the tombstone is starting to rise…) For instance, for a start, let's replace the cheese by coconut cream. LOL (the ston … Read More