July hasn’t been the most blog friendly month, and for that, I’m sorry! Turns out that getting ready to leave the country to return home, at the busiest time of the school year, has made for less time waxing poetic on the internets. Please forgive. I’ll try to get in some last interesting tidbits of Japanese culture and thoughts on leaving within the next couple weeks. Stay tuned.
Japan, as you might know, is big into sweets. In addition, Japanese people enjoy several textures otherwise not valued in the Western world. That of mochi-mochi, hoku-hoku, and neba-neba. (Oh! How I love Japanese onomatopoeia!) These texture descriptors roughly translate respectively to: springy and chewy (like omochi); technically “not soggy” but I consider it more fluffy (like a baked sweet potato eaten hot with butter); and slimey and gooey (like natto – fermented soybeans – or overcooked okra). This mochi-mochi aesthetic is very apparent, as almost every region in Japan has their own form or preferred style of making omochi. Here in Aomori’s Shimokita, they make Beko mochi which is, more than anything, just a way to make something mediocre tasting look pretty!
Mixing the Mochi
Creating the design, part by part
I’ve been given countless gifts of beko mochi in the past year, but I had yet to make it. Turned out, though, that one of my ikebana ladies is a beko mochi master, and offered to give me a crash course in the production. Instead of making beko mochi from cooked mochi rice (a sweeter, smaller grain of white rice), it’s made with equal parts mochi flour, regular flour, and then some white sugar. These ingredients are then mixed together by adding hot water until they form a sticky, heavy lump – not unlike play-dough. Then small amounts of colored powder are mixed in to create different colors. These colors are rolled out into logs or snakes (think sculpy) and by way of good memory, mind expansion, and magic are twisted, combined, flattened, and smushed into a cohesive design. These examples are mostly cherry blossom flowers, but I’ve seen everything from irises, daisies, and cartoon characters. The final log is then sliced thinly and steamed before being eaten.
Move over best gfs in America - my soulmate might just be this loudmouthed, 60+, Japanese dance teacher with 4 dogs
Wait for it...almost there...
Truth be told, it’s not the most delicious sweet. (A little beko mochi goes a long way in sitting in your belly.) But it’s a pretty cool process and very particular to my region. I doubt that anyone outside of the prefecture has even heard of it, except now of course, my loyal American audience.