LIHU‘E — Chef Carla Dusenberry, who leads the major food events at the Kaua‘i Soto Zen Temple Zenshuji in Hanapepe, said there was no way to create mochi, a traditional Japanese New Year significant food, while observing the COVID-19 pandemic rules and mandates.
“There is no way you can make mochi with only 10 people,” Dusenberry said. “I’m just going to make mochi for the church, and if I feel up to it, make some to deliver to the elderly church members.”
Kapa‘a Hongwanji Mission, the Kapa‘a Jodo Mission and other sources of freshly-made mochi announced similar “no-mochi” indications for the New Year.
“I wonder about how I’m going to get mochi every time I pass the sign,” said Daphne McClure of Moloa‘a Bay Coffee. “There is nothing like having fresh mochi for the New Year’s soup (ozoni).”
Local supermarkets answered the call partially by setting out imported packaged mochi that was quickly snatched up on the opening day of sales.
Mochi, a rice preparation made from sweet, glutinous rice, was brought to Hawai‘i by Japanese workers during the mid-1800s.
The tradition of using mochi to welcome the New Year, a significant holiday in Japan, was assimilated into the Hawai‘i lifestyle because of its bringing together family, friends and neighbors for the mochitsuki ceremony, or the process of pounding the rice into mochi.
The demonstration of mochitsuki is a demonstration of its significance of bringing about peace, prosperity, good health and happiness. Over the years, the tradition further evolved to become an event taking place between Christmas and New Year.
“It’s postponed,” said Ed Kawamura Sr. of M. Kawamura Farm Enterprises, who hosts a “global” gatherings for mochitsuki at his son’s home in Wailua, where Mayor Derek Kawakami used to join the group for his turn at wielding the kine, or specially-created wooden mallets (usually made of hau for its softness), to create mochi. “It’s large gatherings, and we can’t have large gatherings because of the COVID-19. We’re probably going to just use the small mochi-making machine so we can make for the family.”
Hiroko Liston, a Japanese-born Australian teaching English at two schools in Melbourne, had the answer on her HirokoListon.com website — make your own mochi.
One day, Liston developed a craving for daifuku mochi, a Japanese sweet consisting of a small round rice cake stuff with sweet azuki paste.
“I wouldn’t try to make it if I were in Japan,” Liston said on her website. “However, here in Melbourne, I need to make it if I want to eat it.”
The recipe she shares on her website under “Daifuku Mochi” is fairly simple and straightforward, the most-involved portion involving the soaking of the glutinous rice, labeled “mochigome” in supermarkets.
Her recipe for mochi calls for 1 cup (220 g) short-grain glutinous rice that is washed and soaked for at least two hours (suggestion is for overnight, but not more than 24 hours).
One cup (250 ml) water, a tablespoon of sugar (can be eliminated), a pinch of salt, and potato starch (Mochiko can be used instead) to prevent mochi sticking to hands.
The soaked mochi and water are placed into a blender with a pinch of salt added. Process until smooth and the texture is like thick cream.
Transfer the mixture to a heat-proof bowl; cover the bowl with a plate and heat in the microwave for 1 minute. Stir well using a spatula wet with hot water; and heat for two more minutes, or until the mixture is cooked through (hands-on verification showed four minutes works). When the color becomes slightly transparent, the mixture is cooked.
From the microwave, the cooked mixture is placed on a large plate liberally dusted with potato starch for forming into the familiar bite-sized mochi morsels. One cup of uncooked rice yields approximately 10 mochi.
The completed mochi can be used for the traditional ozoni, or Japanese New Year’s soup, filled with azuki paste, or eaten with shoyu and vinegar, kinako, or roasted soybean powder, and other variations.
Akemashite omedetou gozaimasu, or “Happy New Year,” in Japanese.
Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0453 or email@example.com.