In our series: Kitchen Memories, we continue to share culinary memories from our In My Kitchen family and friends
In My Kitchen Host Naomi (Exploring Japanese flavours with Naomi and Okonomiayki making with Naomi) shares one of her favourite childhood culinary memories: The Mochi-Tsuki ceremony
Mochi-tsuki is a cooking technique used to make mochi rice cakes. Naomi's family would do this every year at her Grandmother's home as part of the New Year festivities. Naomi is pictured here holding the "kine" or mallet and with the the help of her older sister, they are pounding the sticky rice into the mortar called an "usu".
Naomi tells us that they eat a lot of mochi in the New Year so the mochi making takes place at the end of the year and was a part of their pre New Year celebrations. Traditionally this event was a family tradition in most Japanese households because the wives would get a rest from domestic work during the first few days of the New Year, so they don't cook rice. During this time when the matriarchs of the family took a well deserved rest, families would eat mochi instead of rice.
Mochi is now available in the supermarkets, but according to Naomi picking it up at the local supermarket is not nearly as fun as making the freshly made ones!
How to Mochi-tsuki:
Mochi-tsuki is the act of pounding sticky rice with a "kine" or mallet in mortar or "usu". A special type of sticky rice is used, it is soaked overnight and steamed. While it is still warm, the rice is pounded into a paste with the hammer like "kine". The kine is very heavy, and typically the father pounds, with the mother moving the rice around in the usu. Kids participate making the pounded mochi into small round shapes to be put aside, used as offerings and to be enjoyed as a savoury or sweet snack.
The homemade mochi are eaten with the dawning of the new year. They're usually cooked over a flame and flavored with soy sauce or are placed in a soup called zoni. Today not many families in the city do Mochi-tsuki as a family event, rather Mochi-tsuki became more of a community event during the winter months,
Mitsuo Nakatani Master Mochi Maker
Mitsuo Nakatani is not only a Master mochi maker he is also the fastest in Japan.