Mochi: The Delicious Japanese Dessert
All sweet-toothed foodies will agree, dessert is the best part of every mealtime!
In the UK, desserts from around the world are common, from Italian gelato to French patisserie, but Asian sweet treats like mochi are only just experiencing a Western popularity boom.
You may have heard of mochi during the lockdown in 2020 when the ‘Little Moons’ brand of ice cream mochi went viral on TikTok. Whether you managed to get your hands on some or not, don’t worry! Intoku is proud to serve our own selection for you to try out on your next visit.
Ready to learn more about this tasty dessert?
What is Mochi?
If you’ve never heard of mochi, these are the basics you need to know:
Mochi is made from a glutinous rice flour dough called mochigome, which despite the name, contains no gluten.
It’s relatively flavourless when plain but usually comes in various colours and flavours. These vary from traditional, such as matcha and red bean, to more modern and Western fusions like strawberry cheesecake and chocolate brownie.
The texture of this treat is quite unusual. It is chewy, squishy and stretchy and has been described as cloudlike by many.
Many mochi varieties exist, often with creative flavourings and fillings for different occasions.
The Origins of Mochi
Mochi has a long history, both in and outside of Japan. It is thought to have been introduced by the Ancient Chinese sometime after rice cultivation around the end of the Jomon period.
Mochi-making techniques have been passed down through the centuries, and tools have been discovered that indicate production as far back as 250AD!
Earthenware steamers discovered by archaeologists suggest that the production of mochi in most homes increased the fastest in the 6th century.
This rice-based dessert soon became cemented in Japanese culture through its use in ceremonies and rites of passage, including weddings.
It was an aristocratic custom in the Heian period (794–1185) for the bride and groom to eat mochi together at the bride’s house three days after their wedding.
Nobility and emperors would also place it in babies’ mouths when they reached 50 days old as a mark of their health and strength.
Through this and New Year’s celebrations, mochi became closely associated with long life, good fortune, happy marriages and wellbeing.
Samurais also consumed mochi, relying on its small size, portability, and filling nature to sustain them for long periods on journies or battlefields. For context, a matchbox-sized piece contains the equivalent energy of eating an entire bowl of rice!
As already mentioned, mochi’s primary association nowadays is with the Japanese New Year celebration, when it is commonly eaten as a starter.
It is prized for its stretchy texture, which can be pulled into long strands that are said to symbolise long life for the consumer.
New Year mochi isn’t just sweet. A savoury version is sometimes eaten alongside a vegetable-based soup named ozouni.
However, this sticky rice dessert isn’t just reserved for the New Year. In fact, there are many different varieties marking many different seasons, festivals, events and occasions in the Japanese and global calendar.
For example, as mentioned in our blog about Japanese spring festivals, cherry blossom sakura mochi is common during hanami blossom-viewing parties; on Girls’ Day, a pink, white, and green version may be eaten.
Mochi has spread far beyond Japan and East Asia into the Western world. Thanks to the ‘Little Moons’ brand, many people in the UK and US are now familiar with an ice-cream stuffed variety.
Although mochi still has many symbolic and significant cultural meanings, it is also a common tasty snack that can be eaten any day and is found in most Japanese shops, supermarkets and homes.
Mochi at Intoku
After learning all about it, you’ll be glad to hear that mochi is available to try at INTOKU!
This squidgy, stretchy sweet treat is gluten and cholesterol-free so that everyone can enjoy it.
INTOKU’s flavours include chocolate ganache, strawberry, coconut and mango. We’ve even crafted a delicious fusion dessert – ice cream mochi with waffles!