Jodie Chiemi Ching
“Mochi Magic” (Storey Publishing, 2020) is written by Kaori Becker, a cook who specializes in Japanese cuisine. Filled with beautiful photographs of 50 varieties of traditional and modern mochi recipes, this cookbook is fun to just flip through and discover the infinite possibilities of mochi-making.
Divided into seven sticky chapters, Becker covers: “Mochi-Making Basics,” “Daifuku (Filled) Mochi: The Dough,” “Daifuku Mochi: The Filling,” “Decorating Mochi,” “A New Year’s Tradition: Pounded Mochi,” “Odango: Balls of Fun” and “Baked Mochi.”
This book is great for just about any kind of cook. If you’re feeling a little lazy, there is a microwave mochi option; if you’re more ambitious, you can try the steamed mochi recipe and maybe even venture molding and decorating your mochi into kawaii panda, bear, pigs or baby chicks.
For our Herald readers I selected a couple of recipe excerpts — one unique and one traditional — from “Mochi Magic.”
Japanese Plum-Wine Mochi
This mochi carries the delicious sweet flavor of plum wine, but the alcohol is cooked out of it. The result is a light-pink mochi that tastes of plum wine — a special treat. I suggest filling this mochi with sweet red-bean paste. It helps to round fillings into one-inch balls and chill ahead of time, so that you can assemble the mochi easily. The recipe can be easily doubled — just be sure to increase the microwave time by two minutes at each step.
Yields 7–8 pieces
1 cup mochiko
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup Japanese plum wine (see note)
1/3 cup water
1/2 cup filling of choice
Cornstarch or Japanese potato starch, for
- Whisk together mochiko and sugar in a medium microwavable bowl. Add wine and water, then whisk well, making sure no lumps remain and the mixture is fully incorporated.
- Microwave, uncovered, on high for two minutes.
- Dip a spatula in water and use it to stir mochi dough until sticky, thick and starting to look more glossy. Mix well so that dough will heat evenly and almost all becomes the same color.
- Microwave mixture for two minutes longer, then stir well with spatula.
- Cover large cutting board with lots of cornstarch, spreading it around lightly with your fingers. Transfer mochi to board, then generously sprinkle cornstarch over mochi mass. Let cool for five minutes.
- Lightly rub cornstarch over the top of the mochi. Carefully roll mochi into an approximately three-inch-wide, 10-inch-long log, with all sides adequately covered with cornstarch. If mochi is still hot, use gloves or wait five more minutes for it to cool. Pinch off golf ball–sized pieces until the whole mound is used.
- Fill each mochi with two teaspoons of bean paste. Enjoy immediately or store at room temperature for up to one day or in the freezer for up to one month (de frost for three hours before eating).
Note: For best results, use Hakutsuru or Kikkoman brand plum wine.
Ozoni Soup – Savory New Year’s Mochi Soup
A light, clear soup with notes of dashi (a savory broth) and shoyu flavoring its mochi, ozoni is a dish I most associate with the coming of each New Year. My mother makes it every year around Jan. 1, and our family enjoys this soup together, using our freshly made mochi. Because mochi is stretchable and can be pulled into long strands, much like melted mozzarella, it represents longevity. Local produce is added to the soup as a prayer for a bountiful harvest in the New Year. Feel free to double the amount of mochi pieces to serve very hungry guests.
Note: For a vegan-friendly version, don’t include the chicken, katsuo flakes, shoyu, mirin, sake or sugar. Instead, stir and fully dissolve 1/2 cup of white miso paste into the stock and simmer for five minutes before serving.
Yields 8-10 servings
4 dried shiitake mushrooms
1 small sheet kombu
1/4 cup katsuo flakes
5 cups water
5 cups water
2 pounds bone-in chicken thighs, skin-on or skinless
1 cup 1/2-inch peeled, sliced moons daikon radish
1 carrot, peeled and sliced into 1/2-inch half-moons
4 tablespoons shoyu
2 tablespoons mirin
2 tablespoons sake
1½ tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons salt, plus more to taste
10 pieces pounded mochi
• Thinly sliced scallions
• Cooked mature spinach, cooled, squeezed and sliced into two-inch-long bunches
• Sliced carrots and daikon radishes
- For the dashi stock: Add mushrooms, kombu, bonito flakes and water to a large pot. Place over medium-low heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Strain mushrooms, kombu and katsuo flakes from the stock. The dashi stock is now done. Reserve mushrooms, removing the stems, and slice the caps into thin strips to use as garnish later. To make more dashi for another recipe, reserve remaining dashi ingredients in a container and cover with water, saving it in the refrigerator.
- For the soup: Pour dashi stock into a large pot. Add water and bring to a boil over high heat. Add chicken thighs and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer for 30 minutes, skimming off any foam from the surface while it cooks.
- Add daikon and carrot slices to the pot. Simmer for 30 minutes.
- Remove chicken thighs from the soup. Once cool enough to handle, pull meat from the bones and roughly shred. Reserve shredded chicken for topping.
- Stir the soy sauce, mirin, sake, sugar and salt into the soup, and simmer for 10 minutes.
- If using freshly pounded mochi, place one or two pieces in each bowl and ladle soup over them. If using frozen, refrigerated, or store-bought mochi, cook it in a separate pot of boiling water until soft, about four minutes, before placing pieces in the soup bowls and ladling soup overthem.
- Top each serving with some shredded chicken, mushrooms, scallions, cooked spinach and sliced carrots and daikon radishes if using.
Recipes are from Mochi Magic © 2020 by Kaori Becker. Used with permission from Storey Publishing.
“Mochi Magic” can be purchased at storey.com/books/mochi-magic.