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Posts Tagged ‘omochi’

Beko Mochi

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.

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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.

Ta Da!

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One of the cool things we got to do while Justin was here in November was partake in an Omochi Making Party at one of my Elementary schools.  Omochi, pounded down sweet rice cakes, can be eaten in a variety of ways, and in one day, I probably consumed enough gluten to last me a month.  In today’s modern Japan, omochi can be made conveniently by a machine, similar to a bread machine, which will cook the rice and then pound it out itself.  Never even have to sully your fingers with the messy affair.  In old Japan, though, omochi was made by physically pounding out the cooked rice in a huge wooden mortar, called an usu, with a large mallet, a kine. One person wields the usu while another tends to the rice, wetting it with cold water so it doesn’t stick, and flipping it around for an even consistency.  Which is exactly what we did.

Once pounded out into a huge sticky ball, omochi is typically made into smaller, rounded, sticky balls.  These can be added or topped with a whole slew of goodies.  At this party, we began our Omochi Feast with Ozoni soup, a clear dashi-based soup with carrots, shiitake mushrooms, burdock root and ofcourse, delicious melted mochi.  Ozoni soup is typically associated with the New Year, but can also be eaten at other times of the year.  The 5th and 6th grade students also set up various “stations” for all the other omochi preparations.

One station consisted of mochi brushed with a soy-sauce and sugar mixture, and wrapped with nori, seaweed.  Another station offered mochi in oshiruko, an azuki bean soup, as well as mochi stuffed with anko, azuki paste.  Yet another station slung out mochi covered in kinako, a sweet/salty soybean flour, and the last station had mochi covered in a sweet and savory, caramel-colored soy-based sauce. (Notice any trends? How about soy and rice?)  I left the party with a full belly and tired arms.

Usu and Kine

Justin pounds rice. Old lady cowers. Kids view big tall white man wielding heavy instrument with suspicion

Mochi 5 Ways - not including Ozoni soup

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