For those who have walked the path of the sweet rice cake called mochi, they know it’s part art and part science. As a child, it’s clear to see that the adults have divvied up the work, and each of them seems to have a station: rice steaming, cleaning, mochi cutting, pounding, machine maintenance, etc. The matrons and patrons of the family all seem to have a specific methodology for how it should be done. The mix of these specialists with the secret sauce of the “family methodology” ensures that the family mochi has a familiar consistency, taste, and texture every single year.
It’s easily taken for granted.
In the past several years, our family has undergone a rather quick (and sloppy) transition of work from one generation to the next. Normally you hear stories where next-generation family members serve in the sous chef position for 10 years before finally being given more responsibility. I’m not quite sure why our transition was so rapid, but in the span of three years, my cousins, our parents, and I just started working the machines. Again, it was a sloppy affair, both figuratively and literally.
However, after painstaking trial and error spanning 30+ batches, three years, and three separate mochitsukis, we’ve compiled the essential notes for the “Goldilocks” zone of mochi consistency and texture: think not too hard, not too soft… just right.
I’ve covered this in other articles, but here are the things you need:
- Mochi Machine - the Tiger SMJ is a beast - it’s also the machine that this article is based on
- Mochigome - sweet rice
- Mochiko - three boxes for each bag of uncooked rice
Here are the most common errors we’ve made in the preparation.
We forget to soak the rice. Stupid, I know. The rice must be soaked overnight. The ratio of water to rice doesn’t matter. Just throw the rice in a bowl and soak it in cold water (after you’ve cleaned it).
Mistake number two - we don’t purchase enough Mochiko. Again, three boxes per bag of uncooked rice. We just threw away a tablecloth this year because we were conserving the small amount of Mochiko we had left, and it was too much of a hassle to clean all the mochi that had stuck to the cloth.
Most important note of the article: these are Japanese cups, NOT U.S. cups. A Japanese cup is approximately equal to .75/.85 US cup. So all of the measurements above are using Japanese cups.
Warning: if you use US cup measurements, you’ll get sludge. How do I know? Because in year one, where we took on the mochitsuki, we got sludge. It took me two batches to figure out that I was using the wrong measurement system.
For Tiger machines, they buzz once the rice is done cooking; from there, you press the pound button. Here’s the formula I use at this point: five minutes auto, five minutes assisted, then remove at 10 minutes exactly.
Once I press the pound button, I keep the lid on for five minutes while it’s pounding. At five minutes, I remove the top and use a wooden tool (Tiger machines come with a wooden dowel) and water to manually press the mochi into the bottom to speed up the pounding process. At minute 10 I remove it and throw it on the table (and then I complain about how my fingers are burning).
Critical note: the mochi won’t fully smooth. You’ll look at it in the machine and you’ll still see tiny lumps. Pull it out anyway. Once the mochi starts getting molded, you won’t notice the lumps. Keeping it in the machine longer will move the consistency out of the Goldilocks zone, making it too soft.
Using two machines at the same time? Start cooking the rice in the second machine 12 minutes after the first has started (it takes about 25 minutes to cook 10 (jpn)cups of rice.
Obvious note (but we also made this mistake) - don’t use year-old rice. I know, I know, mottainai… but the rice won’t cook properly, and the mochi texture will be incredibly grainy.
I would normally say, “have fun,” but this process is generally more stressful than it is fun since the smallest error can really ripple. But hopefully, this is helpful! I plan on referring back to these notes every single year.
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