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Born and raised in Hawaii, I have learned to enjoy the perse cultures and lifestyles that today make up our melting pot in the Pacific. But the array of foods Hawaii has to offer will always hold a special place in my…stomach. I blame this blog post on my sweet tooth, particularly for mochi, a Japanese rice cake that’s made by pounding rice paste and molding them into the round globs of goodness that they are. Making mochi from scratch can actually be a pretty tedious process, taking all day and requiring many hands. I know of several local Japanese families that kick off the New Year with mochi pounding as a way to wish for strength, fortune and longevity.
If you’re like me, then you’ll splurge on buying a $5 pack of mochi to save time and to get an instant satisfaction. There’s something about that soft, gooey texture mixed with the sweet yet dry aftertaste that makes me want to break into a mochi factory one night and eat their supply till I’m blue in the face. Perhaps it’s more nostalgic for me because whenever I bite into those sticky treats, it brings me back to my childhood.
Since I have three older brothers, Boy’s Day — a Japanese holiday also observed in Hawaii — became an annual thing at my house. Mom would make chichi dango (chee-chee-DONG-oh), a type of mochi without the filling. But we sort of cheated when we made it and simplified the recipe (see below) by using the microwave rather than beating it by hand. And like I previously mentioned, because I have three older brothers, the chichi dango didn’t last long in our household. Regardless, you could always smell that hint of rice flour in the air or get traces of Mochiko powder all over your clothes if you accidentally rubbed up against the kitchen counter.
Like most high school graduates, I went out and experienced the “real world.” More importantly, I experienced a world beyond Mom’s chichi dango because that’s all I’d previously known. I discovered all kinds of mochi, from ones filled with red azuki (uh-ZOO-key) beans (an East-Asian sweet bean paste) to ones filled with peanut butter and sweet potato. The biggest discovery of all had to be one down the road from my college at the University of Hawaii-Manoa. A heavenly place called Bubbies takes mochi to a whole ‘nother level by filling mochi with ice cream! Sure, Trader Joe’s sells mochi ice cream by the box, but at Bubbies, the mochi is homemade and is as fresh as it comes.
I’m hoping my post not only salivates your taste buds through words but also through Mom’s recipe below. As they say in Japan, Itadakimas! Or “Let’s eat!”
Grease a bundt pan with cooking spray or butter. Mix together all ingredients except corn starch and pour into bundt pan. Microwave for about 10 minutes on medium-high. Mochi should be hardened and sticky. Let cool and flip bundt pan over on to cutting board. Cut along the ridges into 1/2 inch pieces and roll in corn starch to prevent sticking.
We welcome Alyssa to the Hawaii Vacation Blog with her first post. She brings a local voice to the conversation about Hawaii vacations and we look forward to many more island insider insights.