Now that it`s winter, you may have noticed a lot more mochi in the grocery stores. Mochi, a rice cake made from special glutinous rice, can be found throughout the year, but is most commonly seen around New Years.
Mochi is made through a process called mochitsuki. After being soaked overnight, the glutinous rice is cooked, and then pounded in a mortar with a giant wooden mallet. After it’s been pounded to a soft rice ball, there are many different ways to eat it, such as filling it with red bean, or kinako, a type of soy flour.
The type of mochi that’s most visible in stores is called kagami mochi. It is generally made of two round mochi, a small one sitting atop a larger one. Traditionally a daidai or Japanese bitter orange sits on top, although the ones you can buy in a supermarket are usually wrapped in plastic and sold with an imitation daidai or a mandarin orange. It is traditionally placed in the house as a decoration until around the 11th of January when it is broken and then eaten in a ceremony called kagami biraki (Opening of the mirror). Another common way of eating mochi is in ozoni, a soup with mochi and various vegetables. It is usually eaten on New Year’s Day, along with other traditional New Year`s foods.