Guest Author - Chidori Phillips
If you’ve ever seen how mochi is made in the traditional way first steamed in stacks of cloth-lined wooden boxes set over pots of boiling water and then pounded by men with large wood mallets, you can understand the desire for an automatic mochi maker. Like homemade bread, freshly made mochi is no comparison to packaged mochi that loses moisture quickly.
There are ways to make homemade mochi using mochiko flour. And you can make mochi with mochi gome (sweet glutinous rice), automatic rice cooker and a stand mixer. And yet, at least for mochi lovers, there is the irresistible lure of owning an automatic mochi maker. The dream: a machine that will steam, pound and form the luscious little rice cakes all by itself.
An old friend of mine once had an expensive model that steamed, pounded and plopped out mochi blobs from a small tube. You had to stand guard to snatch the hot blob away before another one followed. I tried to locate that same machine but learned that the company no longer manufactured it due to frequent mechanical problems with the many small parts. The sticky starch often clogged the tubes, for one thing.
I bought my mother this Tiger Brand for her annual New Year’s Day party. The tiny rotating paddle reminded me of the paddle in an automatic breadmaker. It seemed unlikely that such a small device could “pound” the glutinous rice into sticky mochi. Yet, it did. We measured, washed and soaked the rice the night before. Then, we turned on the machine. It steamed the rice then began the mechanized pounding, which was more like a stirring. Then, the machine beeped to let us know it was our turn to take over.
Unlike my friend’s machine, this one was not completely automatic. We still needed form the mochi cakes by hand while the mixture was hot, hot, hot. Like the mochi-making wives of olden days, I had to stick my hands into a bowl of ice water in between shaping the hot mochi to keep my hands from burning, dry them and dust them with cornstarch. Because I am not practiced at it, my mochi cakes were not uniform in size. I tried to joke that I liked the rustic, homemade look, but my mother shot me a skeptical look under a disbelieving brow.
So they weren’t perfectly shaped. We took a bite and she studied the mochi carefully. “Could be softer,” she said. “Maybe we should put in more water next time.” So next time we did. My shapes weren’t much better but after another taste test, this time she declared it good. Some were eaten with a blend of katakuriko (soybean flour) and sugar. Others were grilled and eaten wrapped in nori and dipped in shoyu for isobe yaki mochi. None looked good enough to give as gifts, sadly. But that wasn’t the machine’s fault.
In the ensuing weeks, we played with the machine some more. My nephew and daughter enjoyed making mochi. But soon, it got put away and forgotten. Imagine my shock when the next New Year’s Day came and my mother bought mochi instead of making her own with this machine. She said she needed more mochi than she could make in one machine batch.
The truth is I honestly wanted to give this product a great review. Like most Japanese, I love automation, especially kitchen gadgets. But while this Tiger branch mochi maker technically works, its function is so limited that it is not, in my opinion, worth its cost. Furthermore, it takes up valuable storage space when not in use.
It is far easier to cook mochi gome in an automatic rice cooker then turn it into a stand mixer for “pounding” with the paddle. Both my rice cooker and stand-mixer get used on a regular basis and don’t require long-term storage. Their use extends beyond mochi-making.
Even if you are a true mochi lover and plan to make mochi weekly, I would still consider other ways of making homemade mochi than using this limited mochi maker. But to each his own. Two people posted five-star reviews, saying that they loved that the mochi came out great even though they had to form the cakes and clean out the maker before mochi got stuck in the parts. Here is the link to the product if you would like to check it out.