My First Mochi

My husband explains Americans' aversion to certain Asian foods this way: Americans don't like s*** floating in their drinks (bubble tea, grass jelly drink) and Americans don't like to eat food they can see through. The latter reasoning is behind mochi. Made of a glutinous (something that also sounds gross to most Westerners I've met) rice flour, mochi is part of Chinese, Japanese and Korean cuisine for both salty and sweet dishes. Here, it's more popularly known as mochi ice cream, sold in stores like Trader Joe's or Whole Foods. Mochi is what the glutinous outer shell is and when wrapped around either anko (red bean paste) or fruit or any filling it is called daifuku.

When I realized that mochi and the tang yuans and this pink glutinous ball dessert my grandmother always made me on my birthday were one and the same, I had to learn how to make them. It's tradition for us to consume something sweet on special occasions like birthdays, Chinese new year, weddings. On your birthday you're given a corresponding number of little pearls dyed in pink, swimming in a syrup and you have to eat it all for good luck. I always enjoyed that dessert and now I think I know how to make it thanks to a recipe I found.


Anyway, back to mochi, the JAPANESE version of this treat. After looking up numerous recipes, watching several videos and doing the general research I do when I'm about to attempt something for the first time, I was ready. I went to K&S Market on Charlotte and bought what I needed and set off to make some red bean mochi.

This recipe is the simplest one I found and I adapted it based on the other ones I saw.

Red Bean Mochi (Adapted from VeganYumYum's Daifuku recipe)

Servers 12

You'll need:
1 cup glutinous rice flour
1/4 cup sugar
2/3 cup water
Corn or potato starch for dusting
1 can red bean paste (sweetened)

Optional: a couple of drops of food coloring if you want to get festive. Traditionally red (pink) or green is used for girls and boys respectively.

Makin Mochiiiiii

  • In a heat/microwave proof bowl, stir together the flour, sugar and water*.

  • Mix well till there are no more lumps. This would be when you add the food coloring.

  • Wipe down the sides of the bowl otherwise it will get really crusty and messy and hard to clean.

  • Cover the bowl with saran wrap and heat in the microwave for approximately 2 minutes.

  • Sprinkle the starch liberally over your work surface. I used a wood cutting board and wrapped saran wrap around it like so:

  • Take the bowl out, carefully lift the wrap and stir the mixture again till you can't see anymore dry looking bits. Place it back in the microwave and heat for another minute**.

  • Your mochi is cooked. Take it out of the microwave and carefully pull/scrape/pour out onto your work surface. BE VERY CAREFUL the mochi is super hot and will stick to your skin. Before you try to touch it, make sure you've dusted your hands with corn/potato starch. Give the mochi a moment to cool a little. Start handling it when you know you can handle the heat without getting burned.

  • There are two techniques that i've seen online. 1) Roll the mochi into a 1.25 inch thick "rope." Using kitchen scissors or a plastic knife cut out 12 pieces. 2) Flatten the mochi till it's about half an inch thick and using a plastic knife dividing it into even pieces.

  • Each time you make a cut, dust the part that's sticky with starch.

  • Flatten out each piece you've cut, enough to put a small gob of red bean paste into the center. For those of you who have ever made pork dumplings you'll know how to do this.

  • Carefully lift the mochi skin and start stretching the sides over and around the red bean paste, gathering it at a point and pinching the ends together. REALLY pinch, don't be afraid to do that to get it to really stick together. That's your base. Gently roll the mochi in the starch for a light coating.

  • Place the mochi balls in little cupcake cups. Serve and impress your friends. They'll keep in an airtight container in a cool room or refrigerate them to be safe.

*Some recipes said to boil the water - I felt this helped to dissolve the sugar quicker to make mixing it easier too. If you do this, shorten your microwaving time. Mine was a tad too dry and I had to add a bit more water before the 2nd time I heated it up.

**I'd do the 2nd heating at 30 second intervals just to see. If everything looks uniformly translucent and sticky, and the gob rises while cooking and collapses as soon as you open the microwave door, it's done. Play around with it, like ovens, every microwave oven is different.

With the pinching and sealing the mochi ball shut, don't be afraid to stretch and pull. Thankfully the ingredients for this are very cheap (unlike another snack I like to make) and hey, if your mochi rips, eat it and say it's a taste test. No harm no foul.

The hardest part of it all will be the cleanup. My kitchen was a mess but now that I've made this once I'll be more organized for the next time, have more of a mise en place and I'll know how to keep my utensils in check. The saran wrap was the easiest part to clear. Hardly left a mess!

These snacks aren't totally unhealthy but too many may make you feel like you have a rock in your stomach. It's vegan friendly, if you make the filling fresh (especially you ice cream makers) you can keep it healthy too. The ingredients are very cheap, there's no need to buy the mochiko brand that almost every recipe tells you to get. And if you want to make your own red bean paste, I think those cost next to nothing as well!

I'm going to leave you with this video of what looks like a Japanese entertainment program where they're watching three Mochi Masters make mochi the traditional way - by pounding the glutinous rice and water with giant wood mallets. It's fascinating.

Warning: turn your volume down or off.