One of the best things about being Japanese-American is New Years. Food-wise, it trumps both Thanksgiving and Christmas. There’s absolutely nothing like it in my book. In heaven, I’m going to sit at the table with the Japanese New Years food.
But the absolute BEST FOOD at New Years is none other than… mochi! I grew up making mochi around New Years with the Ashimoto family. My grandma would take the hot loaf of sweet rice out of the machine (no wooden mallets for us), and by hand, squeeze and twist little lumps of dough on wax paper covered in mochiko flour. It was too hot for anyone else to touch except grandma, with her old, leathery hands (One time, my uncle Bob tried to catch the molten loaf as it was about to drop on the floor and got severe burns all over his hand). The rest of the family would then proceed to fill each lump of dough with anko, and more recently, with peanut butter. We’d then shape each lump to look as round and perfect as possible. Grandma wanted every mochi to look exactly the same.
The plain mochi (w/o anko) would be covered in kinako or dipped in a mixture of shoyu and sugar. Mmmm. My grandpa on my mom’s side always liked to fry the mochi in a pan until it developed a crisp brown crust, and then watch it get so hot that it burst in the middle, spewing molten sweet rice out of the top.
Last week, Fara and I got to hang out with my family and make mochi. Here are some pics…