Mochi-tsuki (rice cake pounding) takes place during all kinds of Japanese celebrations such as Festivals and New Year. Yesterday I got to try it myself, and I have to say that there is nothing quite like the taste of fresh mochi.
So, to make mochi you can't just use any rice, you need a special, glutinous rice called mochigome. Once it has been cooked, it's placed in an 'usu' which is an unbelievably heavy mortar, usually made of wood or stone.
You then take turns pounding the rice using a kine (wooden mallet), this is performed in a steady rhythm while somebody splashes water onto the rice in-between each hit, this is so it doesn't stick to the sides. Yes, some poor person has to shove their hands into the usu while another person is smashing it with a mallet.
If you get a chance to try mochi-tsuki make sure you take it nice and slow, I'm sure breaking an elderly lady's hand isn't on any of your to do lists.
After smashing the rice several times it was my turn to splash and do my best not to become "that Gaijin who got his hand pounded". It was actually great fun and it's very surprising how quickly the rice turns into mochi.
We did this process several times, ensuring that there was more than enough mochi to go round. Once it has been prepared you can have it fresh with soy sauce and grated radish, or red beans and kinako powder.
With the leftovers we filled them with red beans and strawberries, which were equally as tasty!
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About the author:
Fray lives in Japan and is a Marketing Assistant at Manga UK and Animatsu Entertainment. He is also the editor of the Manga UK blog. For more of his adventures in Japan, follow him on Twitter @FMBurst.