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Thursday, January 6, 2011

Akamashite omedetou

I know we are nearly a week into the new year, but I must mention a short anecdote. The most significant holiday for the Japanese is New Year's, with all sort of games, rituals and celebrations to mark the occasion. I suspect they get to do it twice, once for the solar new year, and another for the lunar. The traditional food is mochi, pounded glutinous rice cakes, often sweetened and stuffed with adzuki bean paste. In fact, the act of pounding rice forms a community exercise, with people taking turns making the smooth rice flour needed for the dish. Nowadays, with modern machines, and storage, mochi is pretty much available year around, although some forms, such as the two stacked patties called kagami-mochi (yes, the picture above is actually mochi), are quite seasonal.

And over the weekend, every major outlet of Japanese food in San Diego was completely sold out of fresh mochi.

Addendum: Kagami mochi are a traditional offering to the gods, of course, but are allowed to sit out until the mochi itself dries out somewhat. Then, on January 11, kagami biraki is performed - the kagami mochi is broken, either with a knife or a hammer (yes, a hammer), and the chunks are cooked in soup.

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