Mochi: Japanese Comfort Food for a Rainy June
After dinner most nights, my husband will inevitably ask: “what’s for dessert?” Usually, I’ll plop a bowl of grapes down in front of him. But given the ridiculously rainy, wet and cold month we’ve been having here in New York, we’ve both been craving something a bit more comforting. And so, we find ourselves turning to mochi: a warm, crispy-on-the-outside, oozy-gooey on the inside biscuit-like treat.
Mochi is a traditional Japanese treat commonly translated as ‘glutinous rice cake.’ (Gee, it sounds so appealing when you say it like that…) Essentially, its made by cooking a very sticky variety of rice and pounding the heck out of it until its molded into the desired shape. And lest the word ‘glutinous’ throw you off, let’s be clear: Mochi is gluten-free. (And vegan and dairy free, too). Here in the US, I’ve seen it in three forms:
- Baking mochi: A flat sheet that, when cut and baked for less than 10 minutes, puffs up into a pillowy, gooey treat (pictured above)
- Mochi Ice Cream: The shell for little ice cream bon-bons (you can find these in supermarket freezer sections)
- The shell for a Japanese or Korean confection (Daifuku), stuffed with sweet, starchy fillings like red bean paste (you can find these calorie-dense treats refrigerated in Asian
groceries; they’re perfect if you’re carbo-loading for a big race!)
The baking mochi application is our preferred one. The brand we see most commonly in health food stores and Whole Foods is called Grainaissance, and it comes in a variety of sweet and savory flavors, which makes it versatile enough to serve as a bread roll stand-in or dessert/snack. (The cinnamon raisin one is my fave, and seems like the closest to a Cinnabon I’ll probably ever get). It’s yummy eaten plain… but a little shmear of peanut butter makes it over-the-top delicious, if you can ever pry your mouth open again from the mochi-peanut butter adhesive that forms while you chew. It would make a super-fun afterschool snack for slightly older kids who can handle the stickiness; but note that chewy/sticky foods can pose a choking hazard for younger children and toddlers.
Speaking of adhesives, I should also mention that if you’re baking your mochi on a tray, do NOT line the tray with aluminum foil; the oozing mochi insides will stick so tightly and permanently to the foil that you’ll wonder why no one in Japan ever thought to build roofs from mochi and foil.
Alternatively, I came across a genius application for your mochi on another blogger’s site: the so-called “Moffle.” It’s a mochi waffle, made by cutting your block of mochi into squares and sticking them into a waffle iron. (Click the link for details) That’s even faster than whipping up a batch of gluten-free waffles from a mix, and it’s vegan, too! But frankly, they had me once I realized that there would be no dirty mixing bowl involved.
I also think mochi makes the perfect gluten-free graham-cracker stand-in for S’mores, which are an unparalled summer delight that have been off-limits to us celiacs for far too long. While you can’t make them over the campfire, you could bake up a sweet mochi flavor in an oven, and then bore a hole in each puffed-up mochi pillow to cram in a square of chocolate and a marshmallow. The warmth from the hot mochi will melt the filling and make a perfectly delicious gooey, smorey mess.
Given its main ingredient, I’m sure you won’t be surprised to learn that, nutritionally, mochi is composed almost entirely of simple carbohydrates. (Admittedly, not exactly the most diabetic friendly treat…) A 1.5 oz serving of baked mochi, which corresponds to 1/8 of a bake-and-serve mochi block, contains ~120 calories, 25g of carbohydrate, 1g fat and 2g protein. But it’s super low-sodium, it’s all natural, and when eaten in moderate portions, makes a nice gluten-free snack alternative to animal crackers/graham crackers or a bread alternative to dinners rolls/biscuits for your gluten-free guests. (Clearly, mochi ice cream or pastries will have a very different nutritional profile).Did you like this? If so, please bookmark it, RSS feed.