Isobeyaki – one of many ways how to enjoy mochi

Mochi (餅 rice cake) comes in many shapes and flavours and is used in a variety of Japanese dishes and snacks on different occasions. Some households make mochi around new year in kneading machines but even if the traditional pounding part is being taken care of by the machine it still takes a lot of effort. After soaking the rice in water, the mochi kneading machine will turn the rice into a gooey mass which is extremely hot and difficult to handle. Starch prevents the mass from sticking onto whatever is underneath and after cooling down a bit, small pieces are pinched off, filled with anko (あんこ azuki bean paste) or what you prefer and brought into the desired shape. Freshly made mochi can be stored in the fridge for a while but it’s better kept in a freezer as the mass can get moldy.

Making mochi at home takes a lot of time and effort but is really fun!

During the stay at our host family in Hokkaido last winter we were lucky enough to take part in this very Japanese new year’s tradition and made mochi filled with anko, pink- and even yellow-colored mochi. Some of the pink and white mochi mass was used to make mochibana (餅花 mochi flowers) by forming little balls and sticking them onto bare branches to make them look like blooming branches of plum or cherry trees. Mochibana is a traditional New Year’s decoration originating in northern Japan or the yukiguni (雪国 snow country) in general, where winters are long and people used white and pink mochibana as substitute for spring flowers. The branch obāsan decorated with mochi looked utterly cute with all the pink blobs and really resembled a blooming branch when seen from a distance.

Mochibana branch with pink mochi blossoms

While making mochi from scratch is hard work and needs time, the plain, dried and pressed mochi called kirimochi (切り餅 cut mochi) which you can get at the supermarket or Japanese grocery store in individual packaging is ready to use for cooking. One popular way to enjoy kirimochi is to broil the kirimochi, dip it in soy sauce and then wrap a strip of toasted seaweed around it. This way of preparing food by grilling something such as shrimps, salmon or in my case kirimochi which is then dipped in soy sauce and wrapped in seaweed is commonly referred to as isobeyaki (磯辺焼き seashore grilling).

Isobeyaki is sometimes also called isobemochi (磯辺餅)

Mochi may be typical for new year but February still counts, right? So when I finally discovered kirimochi in a Japanese/Korean gorocery store the first meal I used it for was to make mochi kinchaku (餅巾着 fried tofu pouch filled with mochi) for oden. The quickest and maybe most delicious way to enjoy kirimochi however is to broil it so that the outside becomes a crispy crust while the inside gets soft and sticky like melted cheese.

Isobeyaki is quickly made with just a few basic Japanese staple ingredients such as kirimochi, soy sauce, nori (海苔 seaweed sheets), a frying pan or oven, and optionally a little vegetable oil and sugar. I used four blocks of kirimochi for two people and made two of them in the oven and two in the frying pan to see what I like better.
Here’s how to make isobeyaki:
1. Take as much kirimochi as you like and place it on a rack or baking sheet in the middle of the preheated oven. Make sure there’s enough place in between the mochi as they raise and get larger. Bake them at medium heat until they get puffy and the surface cracks. Alternatively you can place the kirimochi in a frying pan and roast them with a little oil on both sides until they turn golden brown on the outside and soft on the inside, which takes about five minutes

2. Take the puffy kirimochi and cut it into smaller pieces if you like. The inside is steaming hot so make sure not to burn yourself. Pour some soy sauce in a bowl, and for a sweeter taste add sugar and stir until dissolved. Dip and flip the hot kirimochi in soy sauce until all sites are evenly coated. Wrap it in a sheet of toasted nori and enjoy!

Isobeyaki makes a great snack!

What’s so great about this dish is that it makes a really quick but tasty treat with basic ingredients. Mochi is not loved by everyone but if you like the gooey texture, isobeyaki will make you drool, I promise. Besides being delicious mochi can be very dangerous especially for children and older people who sometimes choke on it.
Let me know if you’ve already tried isobeyaki and if you liked it!

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