Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Mochi--a sweet, rice treat

Mochi is a lovely sweet treat that is a distinctive part of life in Hawaii. By definition it is a rice cake (originating in Japan) made from glutinous rice. Traditionally, the rice was pounded and pounded until it was a flour. Today you can buy it in a box, ready to go. Mochi itself is a bit bland and can be used in savory dishes, but it is very nice when sweetened.

The way we eat Mochi in Hawaii is as an (often) filled dessert. Lightly sweetened mochi is wrapped around a sweet center--sometimes ice cream, sometimes peanut butter, often An (red bean paste). In it's virgin form mochi is white, but it is often colored with food coloring. It is then rolled in potato starch to add a bit of powdery goodness to the outside.

My favorite mochi flavor is An. The red bean paste is smooth and lightly sweet. The mochi is glutinous and chewy. The potato starch gives the whole thing a nice silky finish.

There is an interesting article at the Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mochi

Mochi is relatively easy to make at home, but I prefer to buy it since the quality is better when it is done RIGHT. In Hawaii you can get it at any grocery store, but I like the brand carried at Times.

One caveat: When I went home (Alaska) for Christmas a few years ago, I took some mochi with me. It didn't travel well, because mochi does not like extreme cold. I freezes badly. Alaskans look askance.

Sweet mochi is difficult to find outside of Hawaii, but if you get a chance to try it, do. It's marvelous.

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