mochi (n) a Japanese rice cake made of glutinous flour pounded into a paste and molded into shape (source: Wikipedia)
I've always had a weakness for the chewy texture of rice cakes. It doesn't really matter what form these rice cakes take. I'm just as happy chewing on savory stir-fried Chinese rice cakes (chao nian gao) as I am snacking on sweet Japanese mochi.
The traditional method for making mochi is time-consuming and labor intensive. First glutinous (or sweet) rice is manually ground, soaked, and then steamed. This mound of cooked rice is then pounded vigorously for 10 minutes until it becomes one big, sticky mass. Finally, this mass is hand-kneaded until it becomes the desired texture.
It's no wonder virtually no one in America makes mochi at home.
Thankfully, with the help of modern technology, there are much easier ways of making mochi at home. I've chosen to even skip the pounding step. Although it yields a mochi that is less dense, it's still sweet, chewy, and quite enjoyable.
Easy Homemade Mochi
¼ cup water
¼ cup Mochiko (glutinous rice) flour
1-2 T sugar (optional)
Mix together water, flour, and sugar in a microwave safe bowl. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and microwave on high for about 2 minutes. The previously liquid mixture should be solid now. Typically the plastic wrap will expand while heating (creating a bubble on top of the container) and then it will shrink and become concave once you take it out (due to the rapid cooling air inside the container).
Remove from microwave and let cool.
Be careful when removing the plastic wrap! The steam is very hot!
I like to use a glass Pyrex container with plastic wrap for microwaving because I know it will retain the moisture inside. I once tried making it with a plastic lid and I think too much moisture was lost, resulting in a hard, rubbery mochi. Of course, I'm sure some of you (me included!) feel a little nervous about microwaving with plastic wrap. If you have a microwave-safe lid that seals, I would definitely try that. At the end of the day, you just need to make sure no moisture escapes!
You can now scoop out your desired size and cover with potato starch, peanut sugar, kinako (roasted soy bean flour), coconut flakes, or cocoa powder.
Alternatively, take out the entire piece and cut up into squares with a knife.
You can easily make peanut sugar with a mini-food processor. Just put plain, dry-roasted peanuts and sugar in a food processor and pulse until it becomes a powder. I never actually measure, but I try to eye ball a ratio roughly 1:1 by volume.
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