Japanese mochi, a shortgrain rice cake, is traditionally pounded by hand in a process called mochitsuki and the mochi master in the video (from Great Big Story) below might just be the quickest in Japan at doing it.
Crowds flock daily to Nakatanidou in the city of Nara, to watch Mitsuo Nakatani and his team pound the sticky yomogi mochi into submission. Yomogi is a wild plant, also known as mugwort, and it’s this that gives the Japanese mochi its green colour.
The process they use at Nakatantidou, which Nakatani has run for 23 years, involves one person mixing by hand, while the other pounds with a mallet. In the video you can hear the squeals of the crowd in the background as mallett and fingers come dangerously close to meeting, and you may find yourself watching much of it through your fingers too.
Soft, chewy mochi is available all over Japan and has become a popular treat worldwide, but witnessing the mochi rice being pounded into a dough and shaped in this way, with such ferocity, but at the same time incredible dexterity – the whole process takes around two minutes – must make it taste even better: there’s a poetry to it.
If this has given you the Japanese mochi bug, try making delicious mochi ice cream at home.