Skills of the fastest mochi-pounding pros in all of Japan leave us dumbfounded

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The making of mochi, traditional Japanese rice cakes, is a traditional activity for many Japanese families around the time of the New Year’s holiday. The term for this important ritual in Japanese is mochitsuki (餅つき), which quite simply means “mochi pounding.”

While there are dozens of mochi specialty shops scattered throughout Japan, one particular shop specializing in yomogimochi (mochi mixed with mugwort, giving it a distinctive green color) in Nara Prefecture boasts much more than delicious sweets–its second claim to fame is that it employs the fastest mochitsuki champions in all of the country!

The mochitsuki professionals at Nara’s Nakatanidou (中谷堂) shop make a great team. They’ve got the art of mochitsuki down to a tee, and it’s obvious that in the process they’ve also cultivated a mutual trust over the years. I mean, why else would they be so willing to stick their hands in the direct path of a mallet crashing down at full force?

The following video of the mochi masters at work is so impressive that it’s even garnered thousands of views outside of Japan. Remember, what you’re about to see is not sped-up or altered in any way–it’s the actual speed that the video was recorded at:

 

 

Häagen-Dazs releases new mochi ice cream

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There are a ton of different ways to eat mochi, with roasting it or dropping it into soup or hot pots being some of the more common. Outside of Japan, though, many people’s first encounter with mochi is in the form of ice cream-filled mochi spheres sold at specialty grocers.

But while they make a tasty treat, what would happen if you reversed the process, and instead of putting ice cream in mochi, put mochi into ice cream? That’s the question posed by Häagen-Dazs new kinako kuromitsu mochi ice cream, and we’re here with the answer.

While this isn’t the American ice cream maker’s first foray into mochi-filled ice cream, it is its first time to offer this particular flavor. Before we dig in, let’s go over that lengthy product name.

Kinako refers to roasted soybean flour, although if you’d never had it before, you might mistake the powdered confectionary condiment for a mild strain of cinnamon. Kuromitsu, meanwhile, a sweet sauce made from brown sugar, and the literal translation of its name, “black honey,” should give you an idea of its dark color and syrupy consistency.

Those of you with a good memory or healthy mental preoccupation with sweets may now be recalling our guide on how to eat Shingen mochi, the representative Japanese dessert of Yamanashi Prefecture that’s named after the region’s feudal period warlord Takeda Shingen. As a matter of fact, no sooner did the kinako kuromitsu mochi ice cream go on sale than Internet users in Japan started spreading the word about how much it resembled Shingen mochi, and how happy their taste buds were about that.

 

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Many sweets fans in Japan claim Häagen-Dazs tastes best if you let it sit and get just a little melty first. Following their advice, we set our cup out on the desk, gazed deeply into the eyes of our giant Mr. Sato sticker plastered on the wall, and waited.

A few minutes later we were ready to tear into our snack. Before we did, though, we noticed a warning on the lid, cautioning us “When opening, please remove the lid slowly to prevent contents from scattering.” So, using the last shreds of our willpower, we peeled the lid of carefully, and once we saw what was waiting underneath, we were glad we did!

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There is a ton of kinako inside. Honestly, it’s a complete layer that entirely covers the ice cream. Well, technically it’s covering the mochi, and that’s covering the ice cream.

Once again, being careful not to make a gigantic mess by spilling powder all over the room, we gently inserted our spoon. As we raised it towards our mouth, the mochi stretched out with its characteristic elasticity.

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For our first bite, we made sure we had all the players, kinako, kuromitsu, mochi, and ice cream, accounted for in the same spoonful, and the result was glorious. The kuromitsu’s rich flavor, coupled with the milky notes of the ice cream and the wonderful aroma of the kinako, made this a mouthful of cross-cultural decadence. While we can understand why it reminds some people of Shingen mochi, to us, its creamy quality made the flavor more like a kuromitsu milk shake.

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Taking minute bites, we also sampled the delicious ice cream, kinako, and kuromistu separately, and found that each ingredient is indeed pulling its own weight. Speaking of weight, the kinako kuromitsu mochi ice cream has just 235 calories per container. So while it may not be quite as healthy as non-dessert mochi, it’s definitely something you can afford to treat yourself to once in a while.

Coffee Jelly: The Japanese treat that’s surprisingly easy to make

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Although coffee and gelatin aren’t typically associated with Japanese cuisine, the popular dessert called “coffee jelly” was actually created in Japan during the Taisho period (That’s over 100 years ago!). As you might expect, the dessert consists of gelatin that has been flavored with black coffee and sugar.

Curious culinarians abroad are in luck! The dog/human chef duo over at YouTube channel Cooking with Dog show us just how easy it is to make this delicious Japanese treat at home.

First-time indulgers of coffee jelly may be surprised by the consistency of this dessert that tastes like a fresh cup of coffee. But don’t let that throw you off! Coffee jelly is a wonderful dessert, especially perfect for summer, but great any time of the year. All you’ll need is fresh coffee beans, sugar, gelatin powder, whipping cream, and some cocoa powder to sprinkle on top. We’ll let Francis the dog and his cooking partner take it from here:

YouTube commenters who have tried the recipe say it’s especially delightful with sweetened condensed milk and cinnamon or vanilla ice cream in place of whipped cream. You don’t even really need to dress it up at all; eating coffee jelly all by itself is just as good!

 

Melon topped with ice cream: two great Hokkaido tastes in one crazily delicious package

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Japan sure loves its parfaits, and while they all come with tasty toppings, the most highly regarded come crowned with fruit. But what if you turned the concept on its head, and instead took a piece of premium produce, then added a cone’s worth of ice cream on top?

You’d have our newest dessert infatuation: the fresh melon soft serve.

Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido is known for a number of local delicacies, including salmon and sea urchin. It’s also where you’ll find some of Japan’s biggest dairies, plus its most highly regarded growing region for melons.

The bright minds with sweet teeth at confectioner Sapporo Yaokyu decided to combine the powers of those last two when they created the fresh melon soft serve. Thankfully, we didn’t have to go all the way to Hokkaido to try it. Instead, we waited for the dessert to come to us, or at least to Tokyo, where the Furusato Matsuri is being held until January 18.

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The event’s name translates as the Hometown Festival, but really it’s one of Tokyo’s biggest food fairs. Representatives coming from across Japan gather inside Tokyo Dome to serve meals and snacks to hungry visitors, and right in the middle of the floor space you’ll find the Hokkaishokudo, a cluster of restaurants from Hokkaido. They all looked delicious, but we passed by the local takes on ramen, seafood, and beer. Instead, we went straight to the Sapporo Yaokyu booth, where there was already a short line of people waiting to place their order.

▼ We’re not sure why Funasshi, the anthropomorphic pear from Chiba Prefecture, shows up on Sapporo Yaokyu’s signage.

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As we waited for our turn, we noticed that the fresh melon soft serve is available in three sizes, small, medium, and large, priced at 1,000 yen (US$8.33), 1,300 yen ($11), and 1,500 yen ($12.78), respectively. With all of the tasty food offered at the event, we weren’t surprised that most people were asking for the small, but even though we were feeling pretty stuffed ourselves, we decided to buck the trend and get ourselves a large.

▼ Because even before we took a single bite, we knew we were going to want to eat as much of this as possible.

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They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but we don’t think that applies to desserts. After all, they don’t have covers in the first place. Sometimes you can tell you’re in for a taste treat just by looking at one, and that was clearly the message the striking contrast of orange-hued melon and pure white ice cream was sending us.

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Really, the whole thing is so enticing we were tempted to just bury our face in it and start gnawing away. Just before we could do that, though, we remembered that we were in public, and, more importantly, that we had a spoon.

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So how does it taste? Amazing, obviously! The refreshing sweetness of the melon and the richness of the ice cream hit your taste buds at the same time. The effect is incredible, and we’re not ashamed to say that for a moment, we found ourselves calling on some higher power to stop time so we could linger longer over the bliss the fresh melon soft serve was enveloping our consciousness with.

Sadly, time continued unabated, and before long we found ourselves running out of both melon and ice cream.

▼ Although as consolation, when the juices of the fruit mix with the melting cream it tastes fantastic.

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The Furusato Matsuri runs until January 18, with the doors opening at 10 a.m. each day. Popular items like the fresh melon soft serve tend to sell out before the day is done, though, so just to be on the safe side, you might want to make the Sapporo Yaokyu booth your first stop.

▼ After all, a little fruit to start your day sounds like a sensible breakfast, doesn’t it?

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Link

How to make epic pancakes with your Japanese rice cooker

 

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Every summer, I try to spend as many days as possible on the beach at Enoshima, and each time I get out of the station and walk towards the sand, I pass a long line of people waiting for a seat at the local pancake restaurant. This isn’t Japan’s only pancake joint with a lengthy wait, either, as you can find similar eateries with comparable lines in Tokyo, too.

It used to strike me as a little weird. After all, whipping up a stack of pancakes isn’t exactly the most challenging culinary feat. It can get tedious, though, as you settle into a monotonous pattern of plopping batter into the pan, flipping the half-cooked cake, and repeating over and over again.

Or, you could bypass all that by making an entire batch of pancakes all at once in a rice cooker.

Yes, it turns out the most ubiquitous of Japanese kitchen appliances can in fact be used to help you cook a classic American breakfast. But while the flavor of rice cooker pancakes may be traditional, their appearance is anything but.

 

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If you’re familiar with electric rice cookers, you know their major appeal is that the cooking process in entirely automated. The same goes for using them to make pancakes, and once you’ve done the prep work, you can leave the rest up to the machine.

To start, simply toss your pancake mix and any other ingredients it calls for into the rice cooker’s pot.

 

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Next, stir everything together until it reaches a uniform consistency.

 

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After that, hit the start button, and your role is done. As with making a pot of rice, the pancake should take about 45 minutes to cook. Once the process is complete, flip open the lid and claim your delicious prize.

 

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First-timers should be careful not to fill the pot too high, though. Doing so can cause the top of the cake to fuse with the lid, making it difficult to open. Also, trying to cook too much at once can leave the pancake’s core gooey, although this can be salvaged with some time in the microwave.

As you can see, making a whole batch as a single solid block results in an incredibly thick pancake. It can also end up having a pretty large diameter, depending on the size of the rice cooker you use.

 

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Efficiency experts have probably already picked up on one of the hidden benefits of this method: less stuff to wash. With the orthodox way of cooking pancakes, you have to mix the batter in a bowl using a spoon, pour it into a frying pan, and then turn the cakes with a spatula, and all those utensils need to be cleaned afterwards. With a rice cooker, all you’ve got to wash are the pot and mixing spoon.

Rice cooker pancakes aren’t just great for lazy people, either. Some inventive gourmands have spruced theirs up by adding special ingredients, such as chunks of chocolate and sliced bananas.

 

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Sweeter still is this cake made with cocoa powder.

 

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You can also go the Japanese dessert route, by adding sweet black beans.

 

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This creative chef decided to pre-sweeten his pancakes by adding maple syrup to the batter, along with brown sugar and sweet potato.

 

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Cheesecake fans might also want to try combining the pancake mix with cream cheese, sugar, and lemon juice.

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Or, if you’re looking for a healthy meal instead of a sweet indulgence, you could fortify your batter with potato and okra.

 

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As tempting as these all look, though, the single greatest advantage to making your pancakes this way isn’t the flavor, but the ability it gives you to enjoy a hot meal as soon as you wake up.

All rice cookers have timers and a function where low heat is used to keep the rice warm after it’s finished cooking. Mix your batter the night before, hit the start button just before you go to bed, and come morning, you can be enjoying your fluffy pancakes almost before your eyes are completely open.

 

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Source: Naver Matome

 

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How to make epic pancakes with your Japanese rice cooker