As I mentioned in my toshikoshi soba post, New Year celebrations are quite different in the U.S. than they are in Japan. Here in the States, the partying is mostly on New Year’s Eve. In Japan, the celebrations start on New Year’s Day. There’s lots of activities and foods associated with the brand new year, and mochi pounding is one of them.
More about mochi pounding with photos and, for the first time on PopArtichoke, video (!!) after the jump…
Mochi, a delicious sticky rice cake, is a popular and important food in Japan. You can find them pre-made in Japanese stores and other Asian markets, or make them at home, without much effort, using mochiko (sweet rice) flour. But traditionally, making mochi is a process, and an exciting one at that. It’s an essential tradition during Japanese New Year festivities, and this year I was lucky enough to witness it!
On New Year’s Day, I headed to Mitsuwa, an excellent Japanese supermarket with locations in California, New Jersey, and one near Chicago. The place was packed, as expected. I arrived just as the mochi pounding, or mochitsuki, was about to begin. On one side of the floor the mochitsuki was taking place, and on the other there were fantastic taiko drummers performing. Steamed glutenous rice is placed in a large hollowed-out stump of sorts, and one person pounds it with a giant hammer. The other person has the daunting job of quickly turning the rice in between pounds. It almost made me a bit scared that he was going to get hit by the hammer! Check out the video below to see what I mean:
The taiko drummers added a lively beat to the already exciting event:
When the rice was pounded into mochi, others began to form it into little balls and serve it up for the eager public to enjoy. There were two varieties offered: one dusted with kinako (soybean powder), and the other served with an (red bean paste). Both were absolutely delicious, with the mochi still quite warm and oh-so soft and sticky!
I guess I had not had enough sweets for the day, since I bought this beautifully crafted assortment of sweet bean cakes to bring home.
Mitsuwa always does such a stellar job at putting together events, and this one was particularly impressive! It really was an incredible experience, and I hope I can see it year after year! Perhaps one day in Japan… ^_^
Have you ever seen or partaken in mochi pounding?