Making Mochi

On Boxing Day, we went to the local community center for a mochi-making party. Mochi is a kind of rice paste which is used as a traditional Japanese sweet. To make it, glutinous rice is first steamed. Then the rice is pounded with a large mallet until it resembles a sticky goo.

IMG_2243This is Sam giving it a try. No, he isn’t trying to hit the woman’s hand. The rice has to be turned between each blow of the mallet in order to give it a uniform consistency. Experienced mochi-pounders will keep up an amazingly fast rhythm with the mallet, so the one turning the mochi has to be in good sync with the pounding to avoid injury. The water basin is for the woman to wet her hand so it will not stick to the rice.

(As it was snowing outside, and as many people were wearing heavy boots and coming in and out of the community center, they covered the floor with blue tarp so that people would not have to take their shoes off when they entered the center. Normally, everyone would have to wear slippers.)

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My littlest also gave it a try, but I am afraid that the mallet was too big for him. Later, he got help from his older brother.

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Once the mochi is pounded, it is rolled into little balls, and other ingredients are added to give it more flavor.

IMG_2247Here, they are wrapping the mochi around anko, or sweet bean paste.

IMG_2248This is my lunch plate. On the top of the pile, there is mochi wrapped around bean paste; bottom left, mochi covered in sesame seeds and sugar; top, mochi covered in sweet soy powder; bottom right, mochi wrapped with nori and then dipped in sweet soy sauce.

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It was pretty much a full house at the community center. At one time or another, just about everyone in our neighborhood showed up.

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One of the local men played magician.

IMG_2255There was also a corner for making ropes and decorations from rice straw.

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These decorations have a strong historical and cultural association with Shintoism. However, since most Japanese are much more secular than religious, they tend to see these merely as New Year’s decorations.