Sunday, December 21, 2008

Making Mochi!

I hadn't made mochi in several years (we used to every Xmas), so doing so this past Saturday (12.20.08) made me really happy. This was my first time making it at this house too. I arrived later than most of the people helping, but we made a total of 155 pounds, which is actually not a record...last year they made like 210). Thought I'd share the mochi-making process with you because this is something I love and because recently mochi has become a popular snack at frozen yogurt places as a topping, at restaurants in ice cream mochi, etc. and I thought people might want to know about what those little chewy balls are (they're not boba though!!!)

*Note: mochi alone does not include ice cream; only ice cream mochi has ice cream. So mochi is pretty much a ball of smooshed rice.

You start by making rice (people bring their own rice and distribute the resulting mochi to friends and family):

A bunch of people to help (usually all women...the men usually talk, eat, and take care of the rice...hmmm). You also need a long table, sweet rice flour (we use this mochiko stuff), trays, and more tables on which to cool the mochi.

Someone puts rice into the machine(s), the white poo-like goop comes out (see pic below), which someone cuts off into globs and puts back into the machine (to make it smoother), and then when it comes back out, someone pinches off small balls (I have no idea how's freaking hot!) and throws them down the table.

People grab the mochi that comes to them and quickly "momo" (hm...Japanese term meaning like handling gently or like massaging or something; no one's ever actually explained what it means to me) it until it's a smooth round ball.

Sometimes you add little balls of an (red bean paste--sometimes smooth, sometimes with chunks of beans) into the center, which requires quick momo-ing (lol) and pinching so that the rice doesn't dry into ugly wrinkles, but most are just plain. Here are some an balls:

Then the mochi cools off on a separate table like this:

Here's the inside of an an-filled mochi:

My favorite thing to do with mochi though is eat it with sugar and shoyu (soy sauce). SO GOOD.

Some observations I hadn't had (or thought much about) before at previous mochi-making events:
* Gender roles: Men make the rice and women turn it into mochi (although I've seen women make the rice before too)
* This event is simultaneously a potluck (of course I've noticed this before, but I had never thought about how mochi making involves two different kinds of food production and consumption (my Anthropology of Food class makes me think about food-related patterns and details now)
* People get angry if you bring too many pounds of rice (someone complained that someone's girlfriend brought 50 pounds of rice one year, which she said was really rude)
* We usually make mochi out in the boonies (ag land...yay Central Cal!)

**Also: Some people pound mochi (they did that in Hanford one time), but we don't.

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