In the Occxie world, rice (brown) was eaten only on occasion—always paired with fish.
White rice only encountered in Western style Chinese buffets, and considered somewhat of a treat.
Furthermore, the other Asian staple, soy sauce was only used for one purpose and one purpose only—to drizzle onto the rice.
Of course, this benign custom continued for years after coming to Japan, and the look of shock and horror on the faces of the Japanese when observing this affront to Japanese cultural sensibilities served as a point of amusement, if not some times a bone of contention.
Culture note: In Japan, soy sauce is used for cooking and to dip sashimi—never to be poured onto rice directly.
Little did one understand the significance of rice, not only as a staple of the Asian nations, but as an substance to be revered and venerated while being an offering to the Gods in ancient customs and rights.
Yet it would not be until after arriving in Japan in 1987, where the almighty Japanese sticky rice was first encountered.
This is what is known as mochi, and is sacred to the Japanese.
Made from pounded and molded rice dough, mochi is squishy, elastic, and creamy—ubiquitous throughout Japan—in a plethora of forms.
Typically, mochi is enjoyed around New Year, and is used as a customary New Year decoration—as well as creating the dreaded mochi-bara over the holiday.
Living in rural Japan the opportunity often arouse to experience farm-fresh mochi cake, deep fried, with a sprinkle of soy sauce to finish.
Not for sale anywhere, one must befriend a farmer and offer one’s service to pound the rice cakes.
Then, and only then you may be gifted with a covert bag of Granny’s Secret Deep-Fried Rice Shed Mochi—good luck on this quest.
Who really needs potatoes chips when the Japanese confectionary are makers trying to out do each others all the time—with new endless flavour and mouth-feel crunch battles raging—the base ammunition being the venerated rice.
Often mochi is turned into sweet rice-cake treats coming in a variety of colours and flavours while offering up a slightly sticky, delightfully chewy quality.
All the more wonderfully so, mochi is highly versatile, malleable into many forms, such as stuffed mochi treats called daifuku.
These tender morsels are impregnated with sweet fillings such as anko, or, even better still—and when in season—juicy deep-crimson strawberries—directly from the farm—in what can only be described as one of the most extraordinarily delight mouthfuls of wonderment ever to be experienced since the day of entering into earth’s atmosphere.
There are the ever vibrant green kusa mochi, made with yomogi (Japanese mugwort) that’s kneaded into the dough—presenting an earthy-leafage flavour—luscious.
Truly it is always a delight when the sakura mochi season rolls around, just in time to view the cherry blossoms in the hanami season.
These delectable treats are stuffed with anko, dyed pink, and wrapped in a pickled cherry blossom leaf—succulent!
Who would have thought something as plain as rice could be the foundation for an entire segment of Japanese food culture.
Remember as one wanders through the nooks and crannies of Japan—keep the eyes peeled for unusual delectable delicacies sprinkles throughout the shops of Japan.