Staring out of the car window at the rolling green knolls, tall aluminum silos and herds of happily grazing animals on my way from Milwaukee to Green Lake, I seriously debated pulling up to one of the picturesque farms and asking if they’d be willing to let me milk one of their fat cows. And when I saw a woman walking to her mailbox with a lamb by her side I knew Wisconsin would be the place to live out my fetch-a-pail-of-milk-with-a-bonnet-on-my-head fantasy.
Damn, that would’ve made a good blog entry.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t drag myself out of bed for a 5am milking after lying around on my friend’s dock, swimming in the lake and stuffing my face with fried cheese curds. Luckily for me my toast-and-milk-loving brother saved my lazy ass with the following text. “Holy shit, I just remembered my comfort food… mochi with butter and sugar… that shit is bananas.” (Yes, that’s really how my 28 year-old brother talks).
If you’ve never had mochi before, a brief explanation might be in order. Mochi is a Japanese rice cake made by pounding glutinous rice till it forms one sticky mass. After this, it is divided and shaped into squares or little mounds, and eaten savory or sweet.
As kids we used to join our neighbors for mochitsuki, mochi pounding, a ritual that is part of the Japanese New Year celebration. It was riveting to watch the process. Two volunteers, one pounding the rice with a heavy wooden mallet, the other quickly folding and flipping the hot mass lying inside a mortar between mallet strikes. As you can imagine, timing is everything. I was always relieved by the absence of accidents. But my two brothers, who had been so excited for the possibility of seeing a hand caught under the mallet, were continuously disappointed by the lack of gore. Once the mochi was ready we’d line up for a serving of that warm, slightly sweet, stretchy goodness.
Personally, I love mochi nice and Asian, with seaweed and soy sauce. But—in genuine TCK confused fashion—my younger brother prefers his with a pat of butter and sprinkling of sugar.
I could use this space to talk about the long painstaking process behind mochi. I could tell you how to soak and steam the mochi rice. Pound, shape and dust the pieces with rice flour. But why risk pancaking a finger with a wooden hammer when there are perfectly made rice cakes sold in stores? Look for mochi at your local Asian grocery store (I purchased mine at Hana the Japanese grocery store on U St. in Northwest Washington, DC) and simply follow the cooking directions on the back of the packaging. I simply throw them in the toaster till the exterior is shatteringly crisp and the inside is warm and gooey. Mochi is good no matter what you decide to top it with. Soy sauce, seaweed, red beans, white miso, sesame paste… or even butter and sugar.
As always Sis, great post!! That is sooo Frank ;). Also love how you embed links in the text. I clicked on the hyperlink to the “timing is everything”, OMG! Try playing whack-a-mole with that dude….lol. Look forward every week to the next post 🙂
Those mochi makers are CRAZY skilled. But I’m sure they didn’t get to that level without taking at least a couple whacks. Right? Glad you liked the post!
Wow! so hungry after reading that post ….. Now to get my hands on some mochi… the shit is Omochiroi!!
Like my old uncle shoji use to say ” Tsuita mochi yori kokoro mochi!”
Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you sibling #3. Frank, you never cease to crack me up!
Dear Stirling #3, I almost snorted my tea at “omochiroi”, and nice saying by uncle Shoji too. You guys must have tried mochi with soy-sauce and sugar, right? (kinda like mitarashi-style)
Yeah, Frank’s good for a few good tea snorts. “Omochiroi” Jeez. Points for creating puns in another language. I’ve done the sugar/soy sauce combo. Have you tried butter/soy sauce? Cause what’s not better with a little butter?
How about butter, soy sauce and sugar? Too much of a good thing – never! (Then again, the Japanese put soy sauce on everything, my Irish friends call it “Asian sauce”.)