What is mochi?
Growing up in Torrance, CA, I was always surrounded by Japanese eateries and shops. While I enjoy my ramen, udon, tempura, etc., I always find room to eat some mochi for dessert, relishing the soft, chewy texture of the treat.
But I never really thought about why mochi is important to the Japanese culture. And, as a little kid, I didn’t even know what mochi was made of. But I quickly found out that mochi is a Japanese confection that is made with glutinous rice (specifically mochigome) that’s either sweetened or has additional items to give it flavor (i.e. soy sauce, kinako <roasted/powdered soy bean flour>, seaweed, etc).
But why is it so important?
There are many reasons on why mochi is so important, but there are two that I would like to cover:
1. Mochi was food for the Gods. Mochi was used to give offerings to the Gods at the temples/shrines, then was cut up into small pieces to be consumed by the people for good luck, fortune, and health. Because mochi took a while to prepare, people would plan and act accordingly to serve the Kami (Gods) fresh mochi.
2. Mochi became so popular that in the Heian Era (794-1192), it fully integrated into the Japanese culture, being eaten at ceremonies and taking a special place for New Years. The New Years one is big– every year, many families and friends get together to pound mochi-tsuki (pounding of mochi rice) to make these delicacies. Quoted from The Cambridge World History of Food:
Pounded rice cakes (mochi), prepared by pounding steamed glutinous rice with a mortar and pestle, have been indispensable food items for Japanese ceremonial feasts. People thought that the essence — the sacred power of rice — was made purer by pounding, and mochi was believed to contain the “spirit of rice.” Naturally this was and is the most celebrated form of rice and therefore the most appropriate food for feasts. Thus, New Year’s day, the principal annual feast in Japan, sees mochi always consumed as a ceremonial food.”
Rice, in itself, is so important to Japan, but mochi takes on a higher level of even standard, everyday rice. So the next time that you eat mochi, you’ll know the importance of this little confectionary~! On a side note, if you want to see an article featuring how to make the Mochi-tsuki, please click the link here.
(Show some love, and follow/like Mensore Girl on Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, and Instagram!)