Mochi (餅) is a Japanese rice cake made of glutinous rice, waxy rice, sweet rice or otherwise called mochi rice. (not to be confused with gluten). The rice is pounded into paste and molded into the desired shape. In Japan it is traditionally made in a ceremony called mochitsuki. While also eaten year-round, mochi is a traditional food for the Japanese New Year and is commonly sold and eaten during that time.
Traditionally, mochi was made from whole rice, in a labor-intensive process. The traditional mochi-pounding ceremony in Japan is Mochitsuki:
- Polished glutinous rice is soaked overnight and cooked.
- The cooked rice is pounded with wooden mallets (kine) in a traditional mortar (usu). Two people will alternate the work, one pounding and the other turning and wetting the mochi. They must keep a steady rhythm or they may accidentally injure one another with the heavy kine.
- The sticky mass is then formed into various shapes (usually a sphere or cube).
Parents at the kids' yochien are asked to help with one activity during the year. We were assigned to help with the mochi pounding activity. After the kids pounded the rice, I think we made about 6 different varieties of mochi.