Little House In Ise

Making Mochi
December 31, 2007, 15:30
Filed under: Expat, Family, Japan | Tags: , , , , , ,

My jacket is covered with starch and my palms are red, almost blistered, from this morning’s efforts.  It’s New Year’s Eve and the family here in Okayama have been making mochi.  We gathered in the storage room off the new barn as it is the largest indoor space convenient to the kitchen.  Otosan and I assembled three tables and covered them with glossy newspaper advertisements (white side up).  There are cheesecloth-like sheets laying on wooden trays and a smaller table rattling away like magnitude 4 earthquake.  The shaking is caused by the new mochi machine.

The new machine can steam rice and then pound it into mochi on its own but my in-laws have been preparing 15 kilos of mochi rice and other stuff since the night before.  There are multiple level steamers that are filled with mochi rice, regular rice and black beans. This way, the mochi maker is only used for pounding and once a load (blob) is done we throw in another load of cooked rice.

The first load this year was plain white mochi which we made into balls.  Kneading it into shape is what has burned my palms.  A liberal coating of starch prevents the glop from sticking to you too much but it comes out of the machine steaming and must be hand rolled into the appropriate sized balls.  Okasan prepared the rice while Otosan turned the crank on the mochi shaping machine.  Ray sliced off blobs whenever he was told to and I scalded my palms with steaming piles of riceblob.  Aaah!  Family cooking!

It reminds me of preparing venison during hunting season when I was a kid and making tamales with my family arguing about what was the right ratio of masa to meat in a good tamale.  I still use my grandfather’s empanada sealing technique though I use it for making gyoza.  Yup, family cooking is good. 

I miss my mother, it’s her birthday today (happy birthday Mama) and my Dad who will be having a birthday tomorrow (happy birthday Dad).  They would both enjoy this event and be reminded of the same sorts of things as I do.  That said, the mochi would probably choke them both to death — it is insanely chewy stuff.

Aside from the plain white rice balls we made loaves the size and shape of baguettes filled with black soy beans.  We made green ones with black soy beans and sagebrush ( yomogi doesn’t taste or smell like the sage brush I know…) .  Sadly, when you split a large load of rice blob in half it doesn’t cut cleanly so there is a quite a bit of waste that must be consumed by the people preparing it.  With my experience in testing and quality assurance, I felt it was critical that I take the lead in this very important aspect of food preparation.  As you might guess, I am now stuffed to the gills.  Whoever it was who had the foresight to arrange to have a bowl of soy sauce and some nori handy was a genius.  They must have known that in the process of creating perfect rice cakes many mistakes would have to be eaten. 

After all this “cooking” I need a nap!


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Oh, my darling son, I loved it where you said, “I miss my mother…”! Great description of mochi-making and the onerous task of eating up all those “mistakes”. Yes, it does remind me of tamale & empanada-making forays in our own family. I decided to make empanadas for Christmas. Dad was sick so he couldn’t help me, anyway, they turned out awful. For one thing, I’d forgotten the spices to use and I overdid the vanilla. But the worst, was the ‘masa’. The recipe is: making masa as for sopaipillas then cut into rounds & fill w/the pork & fruit stuffing, then fry. (I decided to fry them this year in keeping w/your wishes, son. Anyway, it was awful. The masa didn’t even produce good sopaipillas! I ended up w/about 2 doz & commanded your father to help me eat them..regardless!! So, they’re done!

Good hearing from you from Okayama. Our best to our compadres, Tomi & family and to you & Megumi and our preciosos, Ray & Kokoro. Carino, tu mama

Comment by Bette Chavez-Holcomb

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