Mochi is the food of the gods
Let’s start off by covering “What is Mochi?” for the uncultured 3 of you that managed to happen by this blog and don’t already know what it is.
Mochi (Japanese: 餅) is a Japanese rice cake made of glutinous rice pounded into paste and molded into shape. In Japan it is traditionally made in a ceremony called mochitsuki. While also eaten year-round, mochi is a traditional food for the Japanese New Year and is commonly sold and eaten during that time
What the Wikipedia definition lacks is this key bit: Mochi is delicious and wonderful and good. There are many different kinds of mochi, and frankly, I don’t care, they are all wonderful. Many people who have had mochi at a Japanese restaurant or seen it at Trader Joes, may think that mochi always involved ice cream, but that actually is not the case. Don’t get me wrong, those are delicious, and possibly my favorite type of mochi (Ice cream + Anything = Always Good). But that being said, there is an entire treasure trove of delicious little mochi-based treats.
The first “step” of mochi-joy is realizing that you can easily get it and make your own. Almost every grocery store of any size (especially the major chains) carries “Mochiko” which is just rice flour. There is instructions right on the box for how to make chocolate mochi (if memory serves). You could also check out wikiHow’s “How To Make Mochi” (Coconut version) or the even more tasty looking “How to Make Strawberry Mochi (Daifuku)".
This segues nicely into my next mochi-joy topic, Daifuku. The difference is that “mochi” is just that sticky bit (say on the outside of the ice cream), where as daifuku is mochi stuffed with something tasty. I’ve tried a ton of different versions, and my favorite is strawberry mochi with chocolate filling. There is just something so delicious about that. If you were to go to a Japanese market of any kind and buy “mochi” off the shelf, it would probably be in the form of daifuku. Occasionally you can buy just blocks of mochi (at fairs, for example), but most of the time they are stuffed with other types of joy, making them daifuku.
Lastly is, of course, Mochi ice cream. Since it is mochi (outside) filled with ice cream, it falls under the umbrella of daifuku. Though it is so wide spread that it’s its “own deal” these days. You can get this type of mochi at many types of grocery stores (but not all). Though you can generally find them on the menu of every Japanese restaurant (at least that I’ve ever been to). They are delicious little bites of heaven that everyone should try. Even if you’re not sure about all the crazy Japanese stuff, especially filled with “eww” red bean paste (actually quite tasty in Taiyaki), try the ice cream variant. It’s flipping ice cream wrapped up for easy hand powered consumption, what could be better than that? Over time, I’ve evolved my own strange and unusual way of eating them but each to their own. The only warning I’ll leave you with on the mochi ice cream: beware of the flour/starch. They put the powder on in excess (to prevent sticking) and it generally goes everywhere. You’ve been warned…
Of course there are dozens of other uses for mochi, like dango and soup, to name two. It is as versatile as it is delicious. I make a point to buy some (daifuku generally) every time I go into Japantown simply because it is that awesome, plus the store there rotates flavors every so often. Sure, I’ve had some bad flavors, but all in all even the “funny” flavors end up tasting fairly good. I never though I’d say that I like a flavor called “cherry blossom”, but I do. The Japanese have some crazy flavor combos, some fantastic (orange tends to be very flavorful), some not so much. Go out there and try yourself some mochi!