Not Just a Japanese New Year Tradition
Food is such an integral and fascinating part of any travel, but especially in Japan. One thing we always do is walk through a grocery store to see the types of things people are eating. In fact, if we are going to bring home anything from a trip, it’s most likely going to be some candy or food. When Jim and I traveled to Iceland, we brought home all the condiments and fixing for hot dogs!
So what are those creamy white and forest green balls of goo on sticks? It’s called mochi! My youngest daughter loved it the first time we traveled to Japan when she was eight, and she’s been trying all kinds of mochi ever since.
Mochi are rice balls. Hard to bite into, chewy, glutinous blobs of sugary rice. Many times they are dipped in a sauce, like in the photo above. The brown ones have been dipped in teriyaki sauce making them a more savory than sweet choice. Honestly, I’m not a fan, but like I said Erika loves them. You can find mochi balls all over Japan, at every festival as well as many street vendors.
Many traditional foods have good luck properties and for mochi the family is bringing on the characteristics of flexibility and endurance. These are such sought after personality traits, that many families eat at least one serving of mochi with every meal, replacing the normal rice, for the first week of the Japanese new year.
During the Japanese New Year traditions, all the schools and many of the towns pound mochi to bring them good luck. A large wooden bucket is brought out with a huge wooden mallet. If you get a chance to pound some mochi this coming new year, do it! It definitely teaches you a lesson in endurance as your muscles start to ache. The cooked rice is put into the bowl and pounded and pounded, usually with many people taking turns, until it is ground into a thick paste. The mochi is then shared.
Have you ever tried mochi? What do you think?