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Making Mochi & Ozoni


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#1 mochihead

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Posted 01 January 2006 - 05:42 PM

Happy New Year everyone! Living in Hawai'i makes us one of the last timezones to actually ring in the new year. Some of you may already be in day 2 of the New Year, while we're just getting started on Day 1!

Being of Japanese-Chinese descent as well as a born & raised Hawai'i girl, we still celebrate a lot of the traditional foods and customs of New Years celebration - cleaning the entire house before the New Year, setting off fireworks to ward off the evil spirits, drinking sake for good luck. We also still make mochi & the traditional ozoni (mochi soup).

Step 1: Cooking the mochi-gome (rice).
When we were growing up, the families & friends used to get together to make the mochi. Traditionally, the mochi-gome was soaked overnight then steamed over an open fire.

Today, as the families moved away and time passed on, my immediate family uses an electronic mochi maker to cook & "pound" the rice into mochi. We use a Tiger SMH-1801 CR mochi maker bought from Marukai for about $120 around 10 years ago. The soaked rice is put in the bin with water and cooked for about 40 minutes. Here, you can see the cooked rice. Notice the three buttons on the side? The middle one is to cook the rice.

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Here's a batch of cooked rice that had ground green tea added to it.

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Step 2: Pounding the rice.
After the rice was cooked, it was then poured into an usu (large stone/wooden mortar) and pounded with a kine (large wooden pestle) by the men. Inevitably, there was always one man who had no rhythm or aim, and his batch of mochi would end up with splinters in it while the man turning the hot rice in the usu would be cursing (after being hit by the kine). :laugh:

With our modern mochi maker, we don't have splinters or bruised hands anymore. Now, the "pounding" is done at the touch of a button. Here's my brother getting ready to "pound" the next batch of mochi. (The third button on the machine.)

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Dad is turning the mochi rice and wetting it as it is being "pounded."

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Step 3: Forming the mochi.
In the past, the women would take the pounded rice and form the mochi balls, using katakuriko (potato starch) to keep the mochi from sticking. In these modern times, nothing has changed. :laugh:

Dad & Mom are pouring out the pounded rice from the "usu" into a tray of katakuriko.

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When forming the mochi, grab a part of the hot pounded rice in your hands and pinch between your thumb and forefinger to form a ball. There should be no seams, creases, or dimples when done properly. To add the tsubushian (sweetened red bean paste) to the inside of the mochi, stretch out the mochi slightly, wrap a tsubushian ball inside the rice and form the mochi the same way.

The tsubushian was made a couple of days ago by soaking dried azuki beans overnight in water, then cooked until almost all the water is gone and the beans are soft. Add sugar & salt to taste, then mash slightly. You can make this into koshi-an (sweet red bean "jam") by pressing the cooked tsubushian through a sieve to remove the skins & make smooth).

I have two blisters on my right hand from the constant stirring of the tsubushian. RAWR!

Anyway, here's me forming some of the green tea mochi in my traditional mochi-making attire. :laugh: This winter has been particularly warm and dry - 80 degrees and no rain!

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Girl-chan (my 3 year old niece), helped make mochi this year. She has "scribbles and snakes" forms of mochi down pat. Next year we're hoping that she can actually make "balls"! Here she is, showing us just how sticky mochi is.

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Step 4: Mochi Aftermath
Once the mochi has been made, we fill up our dining room table with them and then start packing them up to deliver to various family and friends. The really big mochi on the plates & pans are for the kasane (kagami) mochi.

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Close up of individual mochi. Sorry for the weirdness of it - it's really difficult to cut soft mochi photogenically. At least for me!

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Step 5: Ozoni
The traditional good luck mochi soup is eaten on New Years. You can read more about it in this thread. Our ozoni contains carrots, daikon, mizuna, dried shredded ika, konbu, gobo (burdock), hasu (lotus root) in a dashi-bonito broth and topped with kamaboko and araimo (a sort of potato).

I was told that the veggies are normally cut into rounds to represent the gold & silver money. :D

In our household, we eat the soup part of the ozoni with soba and/or saimin & won ton (this year we made gyoza) after the midnight fireworks. When we wake up in the morning, we eat it the customary way with mochi in it. The rest of our New Years breakfast consists of kuromame (sweetened black beans with chestnuts) and yokan (azuki "jelly" made with agar agar).

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Step 6: Kasane (Kagami) Mochi & Kadomatsu
For good luck, we have two of the mochi placed on some ferns with a tangerine on top as an offering for the new year. Kasane is "piled" mochi while kagami is "two mirrors". I think. I'm having a no-sleep moment, so maybe Hiroyuki or Torakris can help me out on this one?

Kadomatsu is a pine & bamboo arrangement bound by rope and placed in front of the entrance. Originally it contained water "in case of fires." The bamboo and pine are supposed to represent strength and growth. One story of the kadomatsu is that the sticky pine traps the evil spirits inside of the bamboo before they can enter the house. Later, the kadomatsu is burned, destroying the evil spirits and protecting the household for the rest of the year. :smile:

I hope everyone has had a fabulous celebration and will have an ultra-faboo and prosperous New Year with lots of yummy food with family and friends!

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Edited by mochihead, 01 January 2006 - 06:15 PM.

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#2 SuzySushi

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Posted 01 January 2006 - 07:59 PM

Happy New Year to you, too!!

My, that mochi looks good, especially the green tea kine.

Not being of Japanese descent, we never got into doing the whole mochi thing, but we manicure the house and the last meal of the old year is always toshi-koshi soba. Gotta have some mizuna, tangerines with green leaves left on, and lucky Year of the Dog charms, too.

(edited to change War to Year! A little too much champagne last night, I think!)

Edited by SuzySushi, 01 January 2006 - 11:45 PM.

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#3 Jason Perlow

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Posted 01 January 2006 - 08:04 PM

Mahalo, Mochihead, and happy new year! What an informative post!

I assume you know about the Mochi ice cream made in Hawaii? I tried it at the local fancy food show here in NYC a few months back and it was really tasty.

http://bubbiesicecre...etfoodmall.com/

The Big Island is by far my favorite of the Hawaiian islands, my wife and I had our honeymoon there 10 years ago this last October. One of these days we have to get back there. Hilo is where the Loco Moco was proportedly invented, right?
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#4 mochihead

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Posted 01 January 2006 - 08:21 PM

Happy New Year to you, too!!

My, that mochi looks good, especially the green tea kine.

Not being of Japanese descent, we never got into doing the whole mochi thing, but we manicure the house and the last meal of the old year is always toshi-koshi soba. Gotta have some mizuna, tangerines with green leaves left on, and lucky War of the Dog charms, too.

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Just from reading your posts all over the forum, I still consider you "Japanese"! :D

I love soba, too! This year we had to get leafy tangerines from one of our friends (we traded Tom Thumb cherry tomatoes from our yard for them) because our own tree fruited early and we didn't have any for our own. GRRR!

My parents are both Year of Dog people. I'm a rat. XD

#5 mochihead

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Posted 01 January 2006 - 08:25 PM

Mahalo, Mochihead, and happy new year! What an informative post!

I assume you know about the Mochi ice cream made in Hawaii? I tried it at the local fancy food show here in NYC a few months back and it was really tasty.

http://bubbiesicecre...etfoodmall.com/

The Big Island is by far my favorite of the Hawaiian islands, my wife and I had our honeymoon there 10 years ago this last October. One of these days we have to get back there. Hilo is where the Loco Moco was proportedly invented, right?

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Yes, know all about mochi ice cream! One of my mom's cousins has a business on O'ahu making their own mochi ice cream and other assorted mochi varieties. Despite my screenname, I find making mochi for money to be way too much work.

Bubbies is also known for pickles. Or so I've heard. XD

Hilo, home of the loco moco originated by Cafe 100, hasn't changed that much in 10 years. Definitely no nightlife, but wonderful scenery and fun to travel around the island. And no insane traffic like on O'ahu or Maui. You must come back and visit!

#6 Hiroyuki

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Posted 01 January 2006 - 09:15 PM

あけましておめでとうございます (Happy new year)

Some comments and questions from a native Japanese:

setting off fireworks to ward off the evil spirits

I think you know it's not a Japanese tradition!

Here's a batch of cooked rice that had ground green tea added to it.

I'm not familiar with green tea mochi. Do you add green tea instead of yomogi (mugwart)?
How much mochi gome did you actually use (in go, sho, pounds, or kilograms)?
Do you ever eat mochi with kinako (soybean flour) and sugar?

For good luck, we have two of the mochi placed on some ferns with a tangerine on top as an offering for the new year. Kasane is "piled" mochi while kagami is "two mirrors". I think. I'm having a no-sleep moment, so maybe Hiroyuki or Torakris can help me out on this one?

Help you out? Kagami simply means mirror. Kagami mochi is so named because each mochi is shaped like a mirror (round and flat), although it's not as flat as a mirror, of course.

#7 mochihead

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Posted 02 January 2006 - 02:39 AM

Happy New Year, Hiroyuki! The firecrackers/evil spirits are from my Chinese heritage. But it has also been a local tradition for many many many generations here in Hawai'i. :)

Normally we would use yomogi, but this year we decided to try something different. The green tea leaves are ground and added in two batches to the rice - half before cooking and then half while being pounded. Here's the tea & the tea grinder that we used.

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This year we used about 15 pounds of mochi gome. We did the mochi in 10 cup batches (4 batches total).

My whole family loves mochi, and we eat in many ways. We grew up eating it with kinako-sugar, toasted, fried, grilled, with shoyu-sugar, wrapped in nori. Almost every birthday party, Girls Day & Boys Day I'm drafted into making the mochi. Usually I'm requested to make mochi filled with Okinawan sweet potato (purple potato), tsubushian, chocolate, peanut butter as well as the ohagi mochi & chichidango tri-colored mochi. I've also made nantu mochi and fresh strawberry mochi (mochi wrapped around anko & a fresh whole strawberry). I'm hoping to have time to try the whipped cream filled ones. :)

As far as kagami mochi, I just wasn't sure if I got the translations right. I'm not completely sure about the significance of the kagami mochi, except that it's usually placed in front of the family altar before New Years and eaten soon after. Mirrors are a part of the imperial treasures, so it's supposed to represent wealth and fortune. I'll have to double-check with the family later on or dig through my books again to find out for sure. Would you happen to know?

#8 Hiroyuki

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Posted 02 January 2006 - 03:14 PM

The kagami mochi is an offering to the toshigami (god of the year). Here are two webpages that may be of interest to you:
http://www2.kokugaku....html#toshigami
http://haradakun.coo...ar_special.html
In Japan, the kagami mochi is placed in the tokonoma (alcove), kamidana (altar), or any other place that you consider important, usually on the 28th or 30th of December. It's considered a bad practice to place it on the 29th because nine (ku) is associated with hardship (ku) or on the 31th because this is 'ichiya kazari' (lit. one-night decoration) and is considered disrespectful to the god.
We eat the kagami mochi on the day of kagami biraki, which is usually January 11.

#9 mochihead

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Posted 02 January 2006 - 06:12 PM

Thank you, Hiroyuki! That's really interesting. I didn't know about the actual days that one is supposed to put out the kagami mochi, but it does make sense. It's the same reason why we four is bad luck, too, because it is similar to death.

Does your family celebrate the New Year, too?

#10 Hiroyuki

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Posted 02 January 2006 - 06:52 PM

Does your family celebrate the New Year, too?

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Of course, we do! We put up a shimenawa (but no kadomatsu) on the front door and placed a kagami mochi in the dining room on the 28th. (We have a tokonoma and a kamidana in our new house, but we were tempted to put the kagami mochi in the dining room... Well, we had lived in a cramped resort condo unit for too long.) We had toshikoshi soba on New Year's Eve. And, on Gantan (New Year's Day), we all had a morning bath (a tradition that I have inherited from my father) and then had a late breakfast consisting of ozoni (of course!) and several osechi ryori (all store-bought). On the 2nd, we all visit the local shrine.
I have to admit that we are a nuclear family and do not celebrate as much as big families do.
Oh, one more thing. I'm not a regular drinker of sake (Japanese rice wine); I usually drink shochu because it's much cheaper. But shogatsu (New Year's holidays) always makes me want to drink sake!

#11 mochihead

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Posted 02 January 2006 - 07:47 PM

Yay! It's so good to hear people celebrating the New Years with traditions and customs. What kind of osechi ryori do you usually get?

I am also not a regular drinker of sake, and no matter how many types I've tried (my friends here are sake afficionados), I still don't like the taste of it. But I drink the tiny cup every year, because we're supposed to. :)

#12 JumblyJu

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Posted 02 January 2006 - 08:06 PM

Thank you so much for sharing your pictures and New Year's experience! It has inspired me to buy my own mochi maker. I love mochi and am always sad when I don't get to eat mochi around New Years. I'm always busy around the end of the year and forget to order my mochi and the stores always sell out.

#13 mochihead

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Posted 02 January 2006 - 08:18 PM

Thank you so much for sharing your pictures and New Year's experience!  It has inspired me to buy my own mochi maker.  I love mochi and am always sad when I don't get to eat mochi around New Years.  I'm always busy around the end of the year and forget to order my mochi and the stores always sell out.

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You're very welcome, JumblyJu! I'm so glad you enjoyed the pictures. :) I'm pretty sure that mochi makers have become a lot more high tech than our 10+year old one. It's a fun family tradition, even if we don't do it with the true "pounding" (and drinking of lots of sake).

They have mochi makers that actually do EVERYTHING for you - steaming, pounding and forming the mochi. To me, it's just not right. There's something wrong with not starting off the new year without callouses and blisters from hot sticky mochi. XD

One year my brother decided he wanted to help form the mochi and tried using a plastic cup and cut out the mochi like biscuits. UGH! That was just so WRONG!

It seems like I'm always making mochi of some sort all the time. There are always boxes of mochiko and jars of dried azuki and katakuriko in the kitchen. When you get your mochi maker, please post pictures of it and the mochi that you make with it!

#14 Hiroyuki

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Posted 02 January 2006 - 10:57 PM

What kind of osechi ryori do you usually get? 

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First of all, I'm not a big fan of osechi ryori. They are meant to be preserved foods and are heavily seasoned with salt, soy sauce, and sugar. I asked my wife to buy the osechi ryori that she wanted to have, and she bought kuromame, tazukuri, kamaboko, and konbu rolls with salmon in them. My wife made chikuzen ni (not an osechi ryori), and I simmered chestnuts with some sugar instead of making kurikinton and made atsuyaki tamago instead of date maki (store-bought date maki is just too sweet for us and is rather expensive).

***
Forgot to say we also had kazunoko (herring roe) that we had received as an oseibo (year-end gift).

Edited by Hiroyuki, 02 January 2006 - 11:05 PM.


#15 mochihead

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Posted 03 January 2006 - 12:32 AM

Oh, yes! I forgot about the kazunoko. We had that too! Do you do anything special to prepare your kazunoko? The one we get here has to be soaked overnight to remove all the salt, then it is eaten with shoyu and lemon. I love the way the eggs crunch. I haven't had tazukuri in awhile - I'll have to see about buying some later on. I'm not a fan of date maki either. Actually, I have to be in the mood to eat eggs - and usually not as a breakfast item.

I also forgot to mention that we had ikura and tobiko with the meal, too.

#16 Hiroyuki

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Posted 03 January 2006 - 12:49 AM

Do you do anything special to prepare your kazunoko?

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Nothing special... Like you did, my wife soaked it in water to remove the salt, cut it into manageable sizes, sprinkled katsuo bushi (dried bonito flakes) and put store-bought men tsuyu (noodle soup).

#17 Swisskaese

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Posted 03 January 2006 - 04:52 AM

Very interesting Mochihead. I didn't know how mochi was made. I tried it in Tokyo in 1992.

Edited by Swisskaese, 03 January 2006 - 04:52 AM.


#18 mochihead

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Posted 03 January 2006 - 04:55 AM

Very interesting Mochihead. I didn't know how mochi was made. I tried it in Tokyo in 1992.

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I wish I could show you how we used to do it - with all the men pounding and turning the mochi! Do you remember what kind of mochi you ate while in Tokyo? Did you enjoy it? :)

#19 Swisskaese

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Posted 03 January 2006 - 06:40 AM

Very interesting Mochihead. I didn't know how mochi was made. I tried it in Tokyo in 1992.

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I wish I could show you how we used to do it - with all the men pounding and turning the mochi! Do you remember what kind of mochi you ate while in Tokyo? Did you enjoy it? :)

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It was shaped like a peach. I don't remember what the filling was. It was either taro or sweet red bean.

Edited by Swisskaese, 03 January 2006 - 06:40 AM.