(餅の皮) Mochi Skin
From the time I was a little kid all the way up to this very day, people have always felt the need to comment on how pale my skin is. I’ve gotten called names like paper, white-out, geisha, transparent, Casper, gecko, the sun, and mochi skin. Over the years I have become pretty creative with my comebacks and now I tell people that my Japanese ancestors were royalty so they never had to go in the sun and get their precious skin burned. But throughout all of the name-calling, there was always one nickname that I never really bothered me.
My family members would always say that my skin was just like mochi because it’s so soft and white. My grandma is probably my number one fan and always tells me how when I get older my skin will still be “beautiful.” Another reason why my family called me “mochi skin” was because I love mochi. It has always been a favorite dessert and snack. And it’s just a representation of how influential my Japanese heritage is in my life.
If I had to describe my life growing up in a couple of words, it would be very Japanese. Even though collectively my mom and dad can only speak 3 words in Japanese, they’ve always been very traditional. For example, from elementary school up until my junior year in college I have taken Japanese language classes. I’m still not fluent, but I can kind of understand what’s being said if it’s said very slowly. Japanese food has also always been something that I can’t live without and I owe that to my grandparents.
My father is the youngest of three siblings. He has an older brother, David and an older sister, Janice. In Japanese tradition the oldest son is always responsible for taking over his father’s duties after their father has passed (just like Jiro’s oldest son). Throughout my childhood, my dad’s side of the family would gather every New Years to celebrate and start off the New Year with each other. For as long as I can remember, it has always been tradition to start off the new year with a clean slate in my family. This meant waking up at 7 in the morning on New Year’s Day and first taking a shower to wash off the smoky smell that the firecrackers left on us from the night before. The early morning shower always represented us washing away the previous year. After taking a shower, my dad made sure that we put on new clothes that we received from Christmas, which have never been worn before. I don’t know if it’s a Japanese tradition, but my dad has always been adamant about that so I consider it to be Japanese. Then my father went around the perimeter of our house setting off new firecrackers to chase away bad spirits from the house. My father would also set up kagami mochi (鏡餅) with an orange (or a daidai/bitter orange) on the top around the house and in his car for good luck. After everything was done at our house, we then drive up to our Aunty Janice’s house to meet up with the rest of my dad’s side of the family.
There are 7 cousins, my two aunties and uncles, my dad and now my stepmom and cousin’s baby who gather to bring in the new year. I have always been really close to my dad’s side of the family so I never minded waking up early to see them. In Japanese tradition, during New Year’s, drinking ozoni soup is always mandatory in my family. My grandpa was always in charge of making the soup, which requires you to wake up early in the morning to prepare everything for the soup because it needs to be made that day. Ever since my grandpa has passed away, my Uncle David has become in charge of making the ozoni because he’s the oldest son in the family. Ozoni soup is a mochi soup that contains vegetables in a clearish broth. Growing up, I never really enjoyed eating the soup because I’ve always thought of mochi as a dessert and in the soup it doesn’t really have a taste. During New Year’s Day we also are forced to eat these sweet black soy beans called kuromame (黒豆). For some reason these beans were just too sweet and it was always a struggle to get myself to eat them. My cousins always used to tease me and say that they’d have more luck than me in the new year because they always ate more beans than me, which eventually got me to eat a couple. After the ozoni soup and beans were eaten, my dad always pulled through for me and made me some mochi with kinako with leftover mochi from the soup. Every year this was one of the things I looked forward to because my dad always knew to put just the right amount of sugar with the kinako powder. Any guy that gives me mochi with kinako can have my heart.
From time to time my grandma on my mom’s side would make some homemade mochi and I’d love always coming home from school to a fresh batch. Her recipe has always been really simple and I love that it really isn’t that hard to make. Here’s one of her recipes for homemade microwaveable mochi (chichi dango):
I wanted to document my mochi making experience the best way I know how, with a video. So here’s a link to a video of my friends Peter and Natalie helping me out on my mochi making adventure: Mochi Tutorial
Making the mochi was a lot easier than I thought it was going to be. Instead of microwaving the mixture, I decided to cook it in the stove. I found a recipe on AllRecipes.com that really helped me out. And because I decided to use the oven to bake my mochi, I found that putting it in the oven for 30 minutes is the perfect amount of time.
Surprisingly, my chichi dango came out to be really delicious. I’m not just saying that because I thought it was really good, but everyone I gave it to who loves mochi or even knows what chichi dango is all said that it was “bomb” and “the best chichi dango they’ve ever had.” I told them not to lie to me, but they weren’t joking because now they keep asking for more. I’m so proud that I could successfully make something that my grandparents have been making for me ever since I was a child. I can’t wait to pass down my knowledge of the chichi dango to my kids and grandchildren. Now my nickname “Mochi Skin” also has another significance because not only do I have the skin of mochi, but I am “bomb” at making mochi as well.