The Beat Goes On

Last week we had two more reasons to celebrate: New Year's and Theo's Birthday. On the 31st, we were invited by a friend to a mochi pounding party. Traditionally, mochi is made by pounding special glutinous rice using a large wooden hammer. There are actually two people involved, one to pound the rice with the hammer, and one to wet the rice, making sure it doesn't stick to the bowl while turning and flipping it. The timing of these two people has to be pretty precise or the rice would cool too quickly, or someone could get their hand smashed by a massive hammer. It forms a smooth, soft, stretchy ball after a while which is then shaped into smaller balls for eating. This is a popular New Year's event, and we really enjoyed getting into the festivities.

The mochi that day was made in a more modern way with the rice first being steamed in tiered wooden stacks, then put into a pounding machine, placed in another machine for cutting the newly formed mochi into smaller pieces, and finally being rolled in a little rice flour and lined up to cool. Some of it was filled with sweet red bean, which is Theo and my absolute favorite. Truthfully, Theo loves all mochi to excess and was in his glory when he was allowed to eat all he wanted.

First, the rice was steamed in this large wooden contraption.

It was then placed in this machine to be pounded into a soft, stretchy mass. A few weeks ago, Theo had told me all about a mochi pounding robot that he wanted to build so that he could have mochi whenever he wanted. He had no idea that something like that already existed, and was speechless and amazed when he saw the pounding machine.

 The soft and warm mass is then put into the top funnel of another machine that pushes it out while snipping off balls.

The newly formed balls are lightly coated in rice flour to keep them from sticking. Here, Theo is sporting a fresh mochi that he is about to devour.

After eating his fill, he helped roll more balls in flour and place them in neat rows. The white, half circle forms that look a bit like two mortars joined together are molds for making kagami mochi, a two tiered mochi that is a New Year tradition and decoration. 

I have no idea how much mochi they ended up making that day, since we only stayed for a couple of hours. It is their family's tradition every year to make mochi and give it to all of their friends, family, and neighbours for New Year.

The family owns a small factory that builds machines for making senbei. Theo had lots of fun poking around the factory, checking out all of the cool tools and machine parts.

They also roasted some delicious black soy beans for us to munch on.

Theo's Mario birthday cake
On January 2nd, Theo turned four years old. We had a relaxed celebration at home with pizza, balloons, and a cake decorated with his current favourite character: Mario. He absolutely loves the Mario Brothers and has been pretending that he is Mario and William is Luigi for months. His interest crossed the boundary into obsession a few weeks ago and now the first thing that leaves his mouth in the morning and the last thing that escapes his mouth at night usually has something to do with Mario. At one point, I asked him who I was, and he told me I was Princess Peach because I am so pretty. Awww...

This past Thursday was Theo's first day back at kindergarten after a two week break. Dustin is also back to work, so hopefully everything will settle back into our pre-holiday routine and I will be able to blog a little bit more about what is happening in our lives.


Carol said...

Did you make that cake, Laura? It is a SUPER Mario cake!

BlackKitty said...

Great posts as usual! I love reading them! (^.^) Happy belated birthday to both Dustin and Theo!

Laura said...

Thanks Marn and Kat! Yes, I did make the cake. It was a series of trials and errors. The food colouring here is really strange, since it is all natural plant derived colour and is in powder form. All of the colours ended up being not quite as vibrant as I had hoped. Maybe I will call it "Mario in Autumn". I made a mental note to bring cake mix and food colouring back with me when we visit Canada. It's not exactly what I hoped for, but I don't think it qualifies for Cake Wrecks yet...