I've eaten mochi before at New Years, either fresh with sweet bean paste inside as a snack, or in miso soup and o-zoni, the traditional New Year's soup made a little differently in each prefecture, and maybe even each family, in Japan. I always liked it pretty well, but I wasn't jumping up and down, since it's pretty pasty and chewy when it's wet. But today I finally tried toasted mochi, prompted by an end of season sale at my local Anew organic grocery. Mind you they weren't cheap, at 1260 a package, reduced by only 3 per cent. But now I'm thinking I will buy another if they're still there next week, because toasted they are delicious. They puff up like like little balloons and the outside turns crispy with the taste of toasted rice while the inside is nicely chewy, resembling a chewy pizza crust, or maybe a cooked pizza with chewy cheese. Now the young woman who speaks English and helps me with ingredients translation at the store recommends putting on cheese or soy sauce. I can't eat cheese, because of a milk allergy, but think it sounds great for those of you who can, and soy sauce just doesn't hit the spot for me for breakfast, so this morning I invented a topping that would probably have them crying foul in the "traditional tastes of Japan camp" but I thought it was just great. I predict it will just be the first of many experiments with mochi, though, since I got a big package.
Italian Breakfast Mochi:
Take about two smallish mochi and put them in the toaster oven on the rack. You can eat more but you might puff up like a balloon, too; they're very calorie dense. Watch them and turn them over a few times as they start to soften up. This is not strictly necessary but it seems to help if you are anxious to get them done and fidgity. When they soften up enough and have puffed up like kids with 20 sticks of gum in their cheeks, probably about 10 minutes, take then out and try to cut, stretch, and pull them open in the middle, so they are a bit "butterflied". Then put them back in for a further 5 minutes of so until you think they look okay. Put them on a plate and sprinkle with a bit of fresh ground black pepper, salt, and the best extra virgin olive oil you can muster. Eat while they are still warm for a chewy and wonderful breakfast or snack. A good cup of deep dark coffee would go down great with these. Maybe next time I'll add a little garlic.
I know I'm probably the last person in Japan to try toasted mochi, so if you have a favourite way to eat them please leave a comment. And let me know how you like these if you can still get hold of mochi. I think the season is almost over.