They can be savoury or sweet, and may be flavoured. Without any flavouring, they are just bland, rubbery balls.
Sweet flavourings include honey, sweet bean paste, and fried banana. More savoury or neutral flavourings that can be added include bean jam, cheese, cream cheese, grated daikon, green tea powder, nori, peanut butter, salad dressing, scrambled eggs, sesame seeds or soy sauce.
To make mochi, pieces are pulled from the dough formed by pouding steamed sweet rice (the dough is called “Mochitsuki.”) The pieces may be formed into squares or balls.
Mochi can be:
- baked, broiled, toasted or fried;
- baked for use as dumplings in the soup served at New Year called “zoni”;
- dipped in soy sauce and wrapped in nori.
Mochi are a traditional food to serve and eat at New Year in Japan. It is also traditionally served at births, birthdays, weddings, and religious festivals.
Every year during New Year celebrations in Japan, many people die from eating Mochih. They choke to death because the Mochi stick in their throats on the way down. In 1998, reputedly 21 people died, most of them seniors with false teeth who couldn’t chew them properly and who decided presumably, to just risk it and swallow.
Mochi literally means “round rice.”
Blower, Steven. Dicing with a rice death in festive Japan. London: Daily Telegraph. 4 January 2011.