Mochi and Its Significance Together with New Year Foods
Who doesn’t know about mochi? Mochi has been rising quickly in prominence, becoming more and more common in Asian snack stands all over the world. Sometimes known as ‘rice cake’, this traditional Japanese food snack is heavily related to the Japanese New Year, since it is commonly sold and eaten during that time. Let’s get to know more about mochi!
Mochi is a Japanese dessert made of sweet glutinous rice flour, also known as mochigome. It is made by pounding steamed rice grains into a paste using a wooden mallet called a “kine”. It has a sticky and stretchy texture, in small, bite-sized confections.
This Japanese snack is considered super-chewy for those who have tried. Indeed, mochi has a gooey combination of rice and dough. It is a little bit difficult to explain if you haven’t yet tried it, so make sure you try one soon!
Did you know that mochi plays an important part in Japanese New Year's traditions? In Japan, mochi has been eaten for New Year since the Heian period (794-1185). During this time period, mochi was actually eaten in hopes of bringing your teeth and bones strength for the New Year.
Moreover, mochi sounds similar to the Japanese word for “to have” or “to hold”, so mochi is also eaten in hopes of gaining good luck over the coming year. The food is so significant in Japanese culture, that where Americans will look at the moon and see the face of a man, the Japanese see a rabbit pounding mochi.
In Japanese tradition, “Kagami mochi'' is a traditional New Year’s decoration. Yes, decoration, not food, that usually consists of two round mochi cakes: a smaller one placed atop of a larger one, with a daidai, or a Japanese bitter orange with a leaf attached on top. Additionally, the Kagami mochi may have a sheet of kombu (edible kelp) and persimmons skewered under the mochi.
The Kagami mochi made its first appearance in the Muromachi period (which lasted from the 14th to the 16th century). The name kagami translates to “mirror” and is said to originate from its resemblance to an old-fashioned kind of round copper mirror, which also had its own religious significance. Traditionally, it is broken and eaten in a Shinto ritual called kagami biraki, which translates into mirror opening. Kagami biraki is done on the second Saturday or Sunday of January.
Aside from Kagami mochi, many households all across Japan take part in the annual tradition of mochitsuki, or the pounding of rice to make mochi. Mochitsuki is done around the start of the new year, and is usually an event that can be celebrated by either a family, a neighborhood, or even a community. This is due to the fact that mochitsuki is a heavy task that takes all day and requires multiple people. Many communities all across Japan host community mochitsuki matsuri, in other words, mochi-making festivals.
These festivals include activities such as performances, New Year’s games, and so many other things! Mochi is many things, it is something that brings communities and families together, and also sweet and chewy mouth-watering delicacies that can be enjoyed by everyone all across the globe.
Where to Find Mochi in Singapore?
Should we go to Japan during the New Year to taste mochi? Of course not! You can dine-in at one of Sakae Sushi outlets. There, you can find mochi under the dessert category. We have several options for you: Matcha Mochi, Durian Mochi, Strawberry Mochi, and Warabi Mochi Kinako.
Please note that Warabi Mochi is quite different from regular mochi, because it is made with tapioca starch (not from glutinous rice). However, it is still a tempting Japanese dessert that is perfect for a summer treat.