Monday, December 29, 2008

Making Mochi
We were invited by Aya to make mochi with her family and a friend's family. Confusing, but I think they wanted us to see a real Japanese tradition. Seems like mochi is a common thing to make once a year around New Years. It was an entire family gathering. We showed up just a little after 9am and it was a handful of family members making mochi since 5am. As the late morning turned to afternoon, more and more family and friends arrived to help make mochi. A short explanation of the mochi process: steam rice in large batches over boiling water (heated by burning wood), put cooked rice into a mochi machine, pound mochi, roll mochi into thick sheets, cut into squares, and they are done. I don't know all the different ways to eat mochi, but my favorite way is by Trader Joe's...mochi covered ice cream. So, if this blog peeks your interest in trying mochi, go to Trader Joe's and get mochi covered ice cream, the strawberry and mango flavored are my favorites. I believe you can get vanilla, chocolate, or green tea as well. The traditional way to eat mochi is by brushing soy sauce on it and then grilling both sides until browned, wrap it in nori, and it's done. Wow, it's heavy. Not sure if I like it that way or not, but it's not bad. I was playing with the kids down the street when Eric was eating mochi stuffed with sweet azuki. We were given a few to take home so I'll have to have some tonight and report my findings. Here are some pictures of our morning making mochi and watching others making mochi.
Eric's first swing at making mochi

Etta throwing flour at Aya, this kept the girls entertained for at least an hour. I have to admit the Japanese family thing is wonderful. The ladies would just play with the kids and entertain them when they had an opportunity so Eric and I could talk and participate.
This was the lady of the house and she had fun with the girls
You can see that Etta had won the war with Aya using flour
Another traditional food being cooked on the open grill, Aji, aka horse mackerel. They are pretty much purchased butterflied, put some soy sauce on them, grill, and they are done. Even I (who loves to eat fish) was hesitant. Americans aren't used to eating fish with heads, spine, and skin still on. I have to say it's one of the best fish I've had (cooked that is) since moving here.
Eric's second go at pounding mochi

Unfortunately he hit the bowl twice! But, got it under control and starting pounding the rice again
Even Etta wanted to help. Not sure how much help she did!
After it's been pounded into the sticky substance it is transferred to a cutting board and rolled into about a half inch thick sheet with the help of lots of flour. This is where the girls entertained themselves a good chunk of the day.
Who knew this would be so entertaining?
They were both covered...head to toe in flour
They even brought out more food, the girls' favorite...onigiri (rice balls)! They had salmon and ume (pickled plum) to choose from. We stuck to the salmon.
Chloe has a new friend!
Etta loves Hiro, mainly because he picks her up, throws her into the air, or spins her around in circles. You can win a child's heart pretty easily.
Where are the pictures of me you ask? Good question, doesn't look like he took any. However, Eric did take some video of me pounding away at the mochi. I'll make a movie and get it on the blog soon.
The family has a little garden and had Etta help pick several daikon. Etta really enjoyed it and got to bring one home. Now, I have to find something to do with it! An addition to the azuki bean filled mochi, we were given two sheets or mochi. I couldn't say no since they were so friendly but neither Eric or I do back flips for plain mochi. Now we have lots of mochi. Eric had suggested we take some to our neighbors. Our next door neighbors were so excited they gave us a pint of strawberries. Eric just got back from the other next door neighbors, he was gone for an hour talking with them. Now he's onto neighbors across the street. This is a great way to talk with the neighbors and not let the mochi go to waste.
We had a great time today! Tomorrow is New Years Eve and have nothing planned. Eric and I figure we'll be asleep before the new year rolls around. We are so pathetic! How are you planning to spend New Years? Hopefully your plans are more exciting than our own.

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