Foodstuff: Sesame Mochi

I saw these up at the Wa Kiu Market in Ottawa in March and picked them up on a whim as I was checking out my other purchases. I am not a big confectionary eater but I have heard of Mochi before and I thought I would grab this little box as a treat so my wife and I could finally get to see what it is like… 

Mochi is Japanese in origin and is made from pounding glutinous (sticky) rice into a thick paste and then forming it into squares or balls. It is often combined with other ingredients like bean paste and sugar to make different confectionaries like the ones you see above but there are also savory preparations as well. I have, for example, a Japanese cookery book that makes sandwiches of cheese between two slices of Mochi that are then grilled before being wrapped with a band of toasted Nori.

Traditionally, the cooked rice for Mochi was pounded by hand and there is a very good description of the process in Cooking with Japanese Foods by Jan and John Belleme. In the book, there is a picture of a man and woman pounding the Mochi in a huge hollowed out log and it looks like quite a laborious job. Today of course, machines are used and the confection is also made using sweet rice flour rather than pounding out the cooked rice grains.

Similar confections are made in China (for Dim Sum especially) and the product I purchased is actually manufactured in Taiwan rather than Japan. In one of my books on Dim Sum there is a recipe for peanut Mochi that uses the rice flour rather than the whole rice. The book is printed in both Chinese and English and the name for Mochi in Chinese is麻糬 (máshǔ), which is just a name for ‘sticky rice balls’. The English translation in that book, however, uses the Japanese name.

The variety I bought is made with sesame paste in the center and, as you can see is rolled in black and brown sesame seeds. When you take them out of the package, they are fairly soft but there is a definite heavy solidity to them. The box actually contains a warning for you to chew and swallow carefully ‘in order to avoid choking’, which is an appetizing endorsement indeed!

The Experience

The Mochi part of the ball does not have a great deal of taste and did not seem to have sugar added to it. It did, however, have a pleasantly chewy consistency and rather reminded me of a cross between a very thick al dente pasta and the interior of the 咸水角 dumplings they serve as ‘Footballs’ at the Palais Imperial Restaurant in Ottawa.

The only taste of sesame I really got was from the seed coating, which added a nice, nutty depth to what would otherwise be a pretty bland taste. The interior paste could easily have been a sweet bean paste rather than sesame and it mostly put me in mind of the filling in ‘Fig Newton’ cookies (albeit not quite so sweet)

The Verdict

My wife and I both enjoyed these somewhat but I can’t say I am in any rush to buy them again. In fairness, neither of us eats a lot of sweets anyway but when we do indulge we would usually prefer something with a bit more character. The texture was interesting but that was about all. I might try making Mochi sometime just to see how it comes out, but I think I would experiment with something savory rather than sweet.

One thought on “Foodstuff: Sesame Mochi”

  1. Commnets from “The Wife”: I think that I enjoyed these more than my husband (above) but I REALLY like the chinese balls like these that are filled with bean paste. I hope he DOES buy them again – nudge, nudge.

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