Saturday, March 8, 2008

Rice Cake Pounding

As one of the side event for the recently held farewell party for the fifth formers who are leaving very soon last weekend, a rice cake pounding ceremony was organised. Traditionally, the ceremony is more commonly known as 餅つき (Mochitsuki) here in Japan. For those who are unclear what a mochi is, here is a simple explanation of this Japanese delicacy.
Mochi is a Japanese rice cake made of glutinous rice pounded into paste and molded into shape. It is the traditional food for the Japanese New Year, while also eaten year-round and is commonly sold and eaten during that time. Mochi is similar to the Chinese rice cake nian gao; however, mochi is shaped from cooked glutinous rice right after it is pounded, whereas nian gao is steamed directly to its final form from a batter made of uncooked glutinous rice flour. In the Philippines, it is called palitao in Tagalog and is coated with sesame seeds and grated coconut.
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Each of us the international students who were interested to try a hand on pounding the rice cake were given an opportunity to do so on that day. However, the process of preparing the rice has started since the day before, where polished glutinous rice is soaked overnight. The next morning, it is steamed in a similar way rice are steamed.
When the rice is ready, it is transferred into a traditional mortar called usu.
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Two people will hold the white cloth supporting the cooked rice while the other person will move the rice into the mortar.
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Before they started pounding on the rice, we got to try a bite on the rice which taste soft and nice with some fragrance in it.
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The process will later proceed with pressing the rice to make it a dough-like mixture using a wooden mallet called kine. This is the only time I joined throughout the whole process of making the mochi and it was certainly not an easy task.
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After the rice is pressed for a certain period of time, the rice will be pounded by two people alternately, one pounding and the other turning and wetting the mochi. They must keep a steady rhythm or they may accidentally injure one another with the heavy kine. Indirectly, if you are pissed off with someone and you feel like taking a revenge, inviting that person to join you pounding the rice together is not a bad idea at all. But of course, you have to make sure you are the one pounding the rice, not the one turning and wetting the mochi.
Doing this, you can deliberately use the kine and hit whichever part of that person, only to apologise later and say that it was not intended. See, you can take revenge while getting to eat mochi at the same time. A good return for all the energy that you had put into pounding on the mochi.
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Putting that evil idea aside, it didn't keep some of us from posing while pounding on the mochi. Remember that Burung Besar that I went together with to Sado Island not very long ago? It made its appearance again this time, pounding on mochi while posing with his trademark peace sign.
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It doesn't matter whether you have a nice and chun small-sized figure to be able to try pounding mochi. As you can see, even my most kicik-sized senpai had a few pounds on the mochi.
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"See, I can do it also lah"
After pounding the mochi for around thirty minutes, the mochi is transferred into a large steel bowl filled with some water.
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The sticky mass is then formed into various shapes, usually a sphere or cube; and later dipped into various flavour, for instances, red bean paste, soy sauce, sweetened fine groundnuts, or walnut sauce.
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Various kinds of mochi coatings - brown groundnuts, dark brown soy sauce and reddish brown red bean paste.
Mochi is very sticky and somewhat tricky to eat. After each new year, it is reported in the Japanese media how many people die from choking on mochi. The victims are usually elderly. Because it is so sticky, it is difficult to dislodge via the Heimlich maneuver. In the Japanese comedy film Tampopo, a vacuum cleaner is used to suck it out. Think I am bluffing on this? There is a fact where some lifesaving experts say that a vacuum cleaner is actually efficient for stuck mochi.
See, told you already that I never bluff anyone on stucking mochi with a vacuum cleaner.

2 comments:

bevE said...

mochi! mochi! i wan mochi.

*craves mochi*

mochi sounds so cute

kero kero mochi - hmn...

calvin said...

@ beve:
now i recall one of our local kuih called kuih kochi.
katak katak kochi sounds weird though.