I love mochi! They are a delightful treat that I really enjoy, it’s the chewy gelatinous texture and combination of subtle filling I love. It’s a hard to describe texture adequately, my initial thought is that of an untoasted bagel, but less bready, or perhaps a gel lolly but with less of the gelatinous springiness. I’m really not able to convey the texture into words very well.
In Nara there is a shop that still makes traditional mochi, that is to say that they still pound the soaked and still hot steamed rice with mallets to create a smooth elastic dough. Crowds gather to watch the guys at work, as they shout out loud to coordinate the timing, as one man lifts the mallet and pounds the rice into dough, another scoops the bowl and wets the dough. It is very entertaining indeed, but with timing so crucial their shouts are critical, if that mallet drops at the wrong time it would be disastrous
They make just one flavour in this shop, yomogi mochi, and it is delicious. Their green dough is flavoured with mugwort that gives it a distinctive green colour, this green dough is filled with a generous amount of sweet red bean paste, the filled mochi are then tossed in roasted soybean flour.
I can’t say they make the yomogi mochi in a completely traditional way, as they have a mochi filling machine, and as the perfectly formed mochi roll of the conveyor belt coated in the soy bean flour the crowd of people watching quickly form into a disorderly queue, eager to buy the still warm mochi for 130yen each. A bargain price indeed.
I’m fairly sure the mochi, I had one afternoon in Nara park had been made by more mechanical means, they have a much firmer texture. This could be due to processing, method or recipe, with water content playing a critical role in the softness of the finished product. Regardless they were still a delight to eat, topped with a fresh sweet strawberry that compliments the green tea and red bean fillings wonderfully.