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What is Mochi? A beginner’s guide to Japanese rice cakes

by Theo Ponthieux

Deeply rooted in Japanese culture, Mochi is an ancient type of rice cake and Japanese food. Mochi possesses the sticky and stretchy texture that will make you curious about it even if you haven't. But keep your eyes open when mochi comes up! How can we prepare Japanese wagashi with daifu mochi? How is it even made? What's so special about Sakura mochi? What about Anko, the sweet red bean paste?

Is mochi a candy or dessert?

Mochi (pronounced moechee) is a Japanese dessert crafted from sugary glutinous rice flour. Mochi doughs are often tinted with green tea powder (matcha) or food colorings. The confections have a dense chewy texture that resembles the crumbs.

What is a mochi in Japanese?

Traditional Japanese rice cake is made using mochigome, a short grain japonica glutinous rice, and sometimes includes additional ingredients like water sugar or cornstarch in some cases. Rice is mashed to a paste and then shaped to its final round famous shape. In Japan this ritual is traditionally performed as "mochiitsu".

Why is mochi so popular in Japan?

The ancient Japan sages believed that mochi had a divine existence so it became a holy food which was eaten to protect and gain prosperity. Now eaten year round, mochi has been associated with numerous festival and seasonal events all year long, including Japanese New Year celebrations.

What is mochi usually filled with?

Tell me the contents of my pounded steamed rice mochi? Mochi is often flavored with a mixture from Ankoji, a sweet red bean paste. This is considered one of the most famous Japanese sweets. Other types of mochi include mango, Ishigo ice cream, white bean paste, rice powder and strawberry or even butter mochi.

Is Japanese mochi healthy?

As fresh mochi is made of steamed glutinous rice, it is considered pretty healthy. Mochi has little fat and a very low cholesterol content. It contains vitamin C and E, as well as K Niacin, Pantothenic Acid and Phosphorus. It provides excellent sources of calcium and iron folic acid.

Is mochi a traditional Japanese food?

Mochi is prepared by processing mochigomes a type of glutineous rice. The mochigome is usually steamed and beaten in a mortar until soft and chewy. Alternatively, it can be made from rice flours, or kudzu starch. It's generally round or flat but some kinds like Warabi mochi can be rectangle.

How is Mochi made?

Mochi is produced using glutinously short grains rice mochigome or mochi - rice known for its more chewable texture than normal rice. It will be covered for two to three hours with water before steaming and putting together until softened and smooth. It requires mortars & a heavy mallet for mochi. This crushing in Mochi rice is known as mochitsuki. Making mochi requires two people: one person must pound the paste while the other one will turn it over and apply water to get the desired texture and consistency. Mochitsuki is traditionally considered hard work but most of it now has been industrialized. Try your luck at making DIY Mochi.

What is Mochi Ice Cream?

Mochi ice cream was recently introduced because of its chewy, sticky ice cream texture. Developed and created by a Japanese-American Frances Hashimoto, it features a sticky rice cake wrapper with ice cream filling.

Types of Japanese Mochi

How can you make mochi? Mochi is used widely in many types of wagashi, Japanese sweet drinks (especially good when paired with matcha tea) and many savory Japanese foods.


Yashihara is a three-sided mochi from Kyoto and is a popular meal souvenir of the Prefecture called Omiyage. The freshly made mochi can be filled with several filling combinations under layered mochi, but generally contain cinnamon. The soft Japanese yatsuhashi also have the traditional hard-baked yatsuhashi that have the shape of an arch.

Yatsuhashi mochi from


Dango technically is not traditional Mochi as it is produced using rice flour instead of glutinous rice. Dangos are a wide variety, but most commonly they're served with 3-5 rice balls on sticks. During spring, the festival celebrates Hanami by displaying dango sticks in white pink or green colors. Dangos covered in sugar-soy sauce have the dango name Mitarashi dango and are considered toasted mochi.

mitrashi dango, food, glazed

Bota Mochi (Ohagi)

Bota mochi/ohagi is the same as a Daifuku turned inside out, where the Mochi ball sits on the inside and is covered with an inside coating of red bean paste. This meal is served during Buddhist holiday in Ohigan, which occur during spring and autumn equinoxes. These types are often referred to as "Botamamosi" at springtime, but ohagi at autumn time.

Bota mochi from

Kagami Mochi

Kagami mochi consists of one stack of 2 piece mochi with citrus fruits. Kagami means "mirror". It is a mochi shape similar to the shapes used in old Japanese temples. In December, kagami mochi is an iconic symbol of the Japanese New Year where locals decorate shrines and offices for lifelong happiness.

Kagami Mochi from Gastronomiac

Mizu Shingen Mochi (Raindrop Cake)

Mizu shingen mochi (also called raincakes) is a Japanese traditional dessert completely unlike the rest of the mochi types listed. This perfect mix between a drink and a mochi is agar-agar powder based and usually sprinkled with sweet kyoke powder.

Mizu Shingen Mochi from

Hishi Mochi

This three-layer mochi piece has the shape of a rhombus. This hishi mochi is a decorative symbol of fertility and sells in the month of Hina Matsumi, or Girl Day celebration. The festival is organized in Japan from 3 to 5 March to celebrate girls' success.

Hishi Mochi from

Yaki Mochi

This type of Mochi are usually eaten in the winter. The mochi puffs up and is subsequently softer with heating. Dango is eatable in this manner called the "yoke dango". Yaki mochi also uses the Japanese words 'jealousy' and 'jeal'.

Yaki Mochi from

Kusa Mochi

Made from yogi (mugwort), Kusa mochis are colored green by nature, meaning grass mochi. Kusa mochi typically has grass-scented scent, sometimes anko or red bean paste. It is typically sold in spring.

Kusa Mochi from

Isobe Maki (Isobe Yaki)

Isobuko maki / isobuko yakis is prepared from individual pieces of mochi grilled in Nori seaweed coated in Soy sauce. It is a simple but delicious snack and serves best with cold, crisp moko and represents one of the only savory dishes of this list.

Isobe Maki from Shutterstock


Daifuku mochi is an incredibly soft mochi with large, soft, round anko (sweet green bean powder) on its side. Other filling options include ichigo (strawberry) or even Kinako mochi, a soybean powder.

Daifuku from AdobeStock

Ice Cream Mochi

Like daifuku, the mochi ball contains filling and is filled with ice cream rather than bean paste!

Ice cream mochi from

Kiri Mochi

Kito mochi is a simple mochi piece cut up in rectangles. They are easily cooked and tossed together with other foods.

Kiri Mochi

Check out our own Mochi selection on Sugoi Mart for more info.

1 comment

  • Diana Miranda

    It would be very nice to have an original mochi recipe. Where is a lot of recipes in the web, but how to know wich one is an original one? Can you make a recomendation of a good Japanese recipe site?

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What is Mochi? A beginner’s guide to Japanese rice cakes


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