Deeply tied to Japan’s cultural heritage, mochi is a type of rice cake and signature Japanese food that has been around for centuries. A lot of people arrive in Japan and are confronted with these seemingly unusual blobs of pounded rice and wonder, “What on earth is that…?” With its sticky and stretchy texture, mochi is a real curiosity for those who have never tried it.
Daifuku mochi is a small, round cake of soft mochi stuffed with sweetened bean paste. It’s made by pounding glutinous rice with a heavy mallet until it becomes sticky, and then wrapping the dough around sweetened anko (red bean paste) or shiroan (white bean paste) and molding the rice into the desired shape. “Daifuku” in Japanese literally means “big luck”, so over time has taken on lucky symbolism. Daifuku typically comes in white, pink, or pale green and can be eaten as is, or toasted lightly so the mochi becomes soft and sticky.
Usually served at Cherry Blossom festivals, sakura mochi is pink, just like cherry blossoms, and filled with anko, or red bean paste. Wrapped in a pickled sakura leaf, the handheld delight is a sweet-salty-bitter combination.
As the name would insinuate, kusa mochi is flavored with kusa, a wild grass that is alternately shunned as a root, and used in medicine across Europe and Asia. The flavor is grassy, and reminiscent of strong green teas, and is used at tea ceremonies.
Dango is a Japanese dumpling made from rice flour mixed with uruchi rice flour and glutinous rice flour. It is different from the method of making mochi, which made after steaming glutinous rice. Dango is usually finished round shaped, three to five dango are often served on a skewer (skewered dango pieces called kushi-dango). Generally, Dango comes under the category of Wagashi, and is often served with green tea. It is eaten year-round, but the different varieties are traditionally eaten in given seasons.
Warabimochi is a sweet Japanese concoction reminiscent of jelly. It is made from bracken starch, and is traditionally dusted with sweet toasted soybean flour known as kinako. Warabimochi is one of the most popular sweets in the Kansai area, typically consumed in the summertime, since it is praised for its cool, chewy, and soft texture.
Hishi mochi is a diamond-shaped Japanese treat made with glutinous mochi base. It usually consists of three different layers: the jasmine-flavored pink layer, the plain white layer infused with water chestnuts, and the bottom green layer flavored with mugwort.
Hishi mochi is a highly symbolic festive treat which is usually associated with Girl’s Day, a traditional Japanese holiday which celebrates the success and prosperity of young girls.
Botamochi is a Japanese sweet made with glutinous rice, regular rice (ratio of 7:3, or only glutinous rice) and sweet azuki paste (red bean paste). They are made by soaking the rice for approximately 1 hour. The rice is then cooked, and a thick azuki paste is hand-packed around pre-formed balls of rice. Botamochi is eaten as sacred food as offering during the weeks of the spring and the autumn Higan in Japan.