Even though I'm a Yonsei or Fourth Generation Japanese American, my Japanese roots have not been lost! We still carry the tradition of "Mochitsuki" or pounding of mochi or rice cakes every year. Mochi is definitely a must for any Japanese New Year or "Oshogatsu" celebration. We normally make this on New Year's Eve at my brother's house but this year, we decided to relax a little and wait until New Year's Day. The process of making mochi is pretty labor intensive but it really gets the whole family involved because everyone can help. It's fun to form the mochi patties and wait in anticipation to eat our first cooked batch that we dip in sweet soy sauce. We normally borrow my aunt's mochi maker but we all pitched in and purchased a brand new mochi maker which taught us a few things... 1. Don't use old rice and 2. Don't mix the rice with any other type of rice. Our first two batches came out a little lumpy and didn't puff up in the oven the way I'm used to but we made a third batch with new rice...that one came out perfect. What a way to start of the new year with a crispy, puffy, gooey warm mochi. We've modernized our process by buying a mochi maker but if you really want to do it "old school", after the rice is cooked, you would dump it into a usu, or mortar, made from a wood stump, stone or concrete form. Then the hot cooked rice in the usu is pounded with a kine or wooden mallet. With much force, the mochi is pounded until the mass of rice is smooth and shiny, with no lumpy grains of rice showing. If you get motivated, buy a mochi maker vs buying all the traditional equipment and make some mochi!
Happy New Year's and enjoy!
Here's the mochi maker that we bought. It's made by Tiger and can be bought on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Tiger-SMJA18U-Cup-Mochi-Maker/dp/B00158VXHU
First we washed and soaked the rice or "Mochigome" which is a particular type of sweet rice that you use for mochi making. We left it to soak for a day but it needs a minimum of 6 hours.
Then, we put the rice in our mochi maker and let it steam for 45 minutes.
After the grains of rice could be squashed with your finger, the rice was ready to pound. We set the machine on pound and away it went, turning the rice into a glutinous mass.
Then, we turned out the big ball of pounded rice onto a table that had been sprinkled with "Mochiko" or rice flour to avoid sticking. We all gathered around and started forming mochi patties until it was all gone.
We put our first batch in a hot broiler on a tinfoil lined cookie sheet and waited about 5 minutes until it puffed up into yummy mochi. It was ready when the tops turned brown and the mochi puffed into big balls.
Then, we made a dipping sauce made up of 3/4 sugar and 1/4 soy sauce mixed together.
Yummy and just as good the next day in our jammies! Just freeze it for future use if you aren't going to eat it all in one sitting. It can be taken out of the freezer and prepared in the same way, no need to defrost. Oishii (deelicious)!