Mochi: A Meaningful New Year Tradition
By Natsume Aoi, Mochidoki Culinary Director
As we get ready for the coming of the New Year and welcome new flavours and creations for 2021, I wanted to take a moment to share a bit about the history and meaning of mochi in Japanese culture.
While mochi are a favorite treat throughout the year, they are most iconic and symbolic of New Year celebrations in Japan, both as a household decoration — kagami — and as a part of the traditional set of dishes served on New Year’s Day — osechi ryori.
Typically set in the center of a kamidana, (a household altar in Japanese homes), kagami mochi is an offering for Toshigami, a Shinto deity who blesses each family with longevity and overall wellness for the New Year.
As families celebrate with the traditional New Year meal, mochi also appears in ozoni - a miso-based soup with mochi and vegetables.
Gathered together, these variations of mochi symbolize health and longevity in the New Year ... and for all of us here at Mochidoki, we embrace those symbols and hope you and your loved ones have a happy, healthy and wonderful 2021.
Making mochi together is one of the most special traditions for the New Year. If you would like to experience this tradition in your home for the New Year, you can try this recipe, which I recently shared with our friends at Marie Kondo: How To Make Mochi
240g Mochiko (1 cup)
360g Water (1 ½ cups)
40g Sugar (⅓ cup)
4g Salt (¾ tsp)
Filling of your choice (~1 cup, roughly 1 tbsp of filling per mochi)
- Whisk ingredients together in a glass bowl until all mochiko has dissolved.
- Place bowl into steamer and steam for 12 to 15 minutes and make sure to stir mochi to even out texture halfway through steaming progress.
- The mochi is cooked through when colour becomes a translucent white and texture is soft and sticky.
- Once the mochi is cooked, roll out the mochi to roughly ¼ inch and cut it into rounds using a ring cutter.
- Brush off any excess cornstarch or potato starch and the mochi will be ready to use.
- Common fillings include: red bean paste, white bean paste, an entire dried apricot, or candied chestnut.
- Place the filling in the center of the dough and carefully wrap so that each mochi “ball” is completely sealed.
- Store the mochi in an airtight container at room temperature (unless you’re making mochi ice cream, of course!), and they’ll be good for 2-3 days.
- To make mochi ice cream, prepare scoops of ice cream ahead of time and be sure to freeze the finished mochi ice cream -- when you’re ready to serve, allow the mochi to sit a few minutes to temper before eating.
A few tips from Chef Aoi ….
Mochi dough is very sticky when it initially comes out of the steamer or off the stove top. But that’s also when it is the most pliable and easy to shape or roll.
Make sure you put plenty of cornstarch or katakuriko (potato starch) on the workstation when rolling out mochi. That will prevent sticking and makes the mochi easy to work with.
Work with gloves and always test the temperature before handling. However, it is all about timing -- if the mochi dough cools down too much before you use it, it will be much more difficult to manage.