Mochi is rice cake, made by pounding cooked mochi rice till it is sticky and glutinous. It can be cooked a number of different ways, for example, in soup, or toasted over a wire grill, and with many different accompaniments such as kinako (nutty flavored toasted soybean flour), or sweet red bean jam. Soft mochi is sometimes sweetened to make little Japanese style cakes, but in winter and around New Year plain unsweetened mochi can be bought for zenzai (made from sweet red bean jam, zenzai is the delicious Japanese counterpart for hot chocolate with marshmallows), toasted mochi, and a traditional New Year soup called zoni.
Sometimes I like to experiment by combining Japanese ingredients with Western tastes. Here is one of my experiments, putting a new spin on a Japanese New Year classic. Toast some squares of plain mochi till puffed and golden brown. Immerse them in simmering water for about a minute, then roll in a mixture of kinako, kurozato (dark brown sugar), a generous amount of dried ginger, and some chopped toasted almonds. The flavor is like gingerbread. Eat while it's warm, but be careful... every year a few Japanese choke to death on mochi! I recommend taking small bites and chewing well (which is what you ought to do anyway, right?)
|New Year mochi at Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto|