Monday, December 24, 2012

Yuki & Love Taro Mochi


People tend to believe that something is exclusive to an area or culture because they have no experience with it in another area or culture. When they do encounter it elsewhere, they often assume it is a copy of the food from their place of origin rather than consider that they may be the ones doing the copying. Living in Japan, I encountered many people who believed Japan invented something or some cultural aspect was absolutely indigenous. Later, a little research would often reveal that something was not Japanese at all, but rather a riff or copy of some other country's culture.

This is not exactly a criticism of Japan. It's more food for thought which I hope people will set aside and chew on when they have time. Americans, because our country is relatively young and a mutt nation of people and cultures from all over the world, tend to assume things are actually not invented here. We know we didn't invent French fries, not because they have the word "French" in them, but because we didn't invent hardly any of our cuisine (and French fries are from Belgium, right?).

At any rate, I assumed that anything which I first encountered in Japan was, by default, Japanese. By doing this blog, I have discovered that many of those things are of Chinese origin if they appear to be based on foods that tend to be more predominant in Asian culture (rice, noodles. etc.) or Portugal if they tend to be based on things you would find in Europe (wheat, almonds, etc.). That being said, I never questioned the idea that mochi or any type of Japanese sweet for that matter was purely the province of the Japanese.

It turns out that I was wrong. Other Asian countries have their own variations on pounded rice cake with various fillings. I went to a small Asian market not too far from my current residence and found a pretty reasonably priced multi-pack of mochi treats and snapped it up. When I got it home, well, let's say that either I was unlucky or Chinese-style mochi isn't exactly the same as Japanese. The mochi was thicker, tougher, and the fillings were not as finely processed. I was disappointed and rather put-off by future purchases of non-Japanese style mochi treats.

When my husband and I were exploring the 99 Ranch Asian market, I was persuaded to give the whole idea another go by the low price on several boxes of "Japanese-style" mochi. At $1.50 per box of 6, it was a bargain compared to the usual pricing for such things. Also, it says "Japanese-style" on the box, so, you know, it must be the nice, soft little pillows of mochi with smooth fillings that I got used to in Japan, right?

The company that makes these is Taiwanese and their web site is in Chinese, so I have imperfect access to the information about them. They make a lot of interesting looking sweets including some with mochi and others with cake-style enclosures. If I run across other variations by this company, I'm likely to give them a try considering that they include a lot of flavors that I like like sweet potato, mango, and brown sugar. 

The flavors on offer at Ranch 99 were brown sugar, taro, peanut, and sesame. The truth is that they all sounded good, but I chose taro because I'd never had it before. I was also inspired by what I thought was a mention/review of a McDonald's taro pie on the Impulsive Buy, but I can't seem to find said review to link to. Perhaps I dreamed it, or my mad search skills are insanely bad rather than good. I wanted to get some idea of what taro tasted like, so I splashed out the buck fifty for this version.


For those who don't know, taro is a corm. That's a way of saying it's not a potato, but sort of looks like the ugly love-child of a ginger root and a tuber. Before I even sampled this taro mochi sweet, I guessed that it would probably not have much of its own flavor, but would likely be like a potato or other starchy food that tends to reflect the flavors it is prepared with. This rather defeats the purpose of wanting to sample taro, but it's not like I stood in the supermarket deeply reflecting on this when I decided to buy this. Nobody thinks that far ahead about buying a simple box of snacks, right?


The previous paragraph is my way of saying that I still have no idea was taro tastes like. I can say that this mochi sweet tastes very nice though. The flavor seemed to have a bit of a caramel note with a hint of some sort of cream. It was quite sweet, but not over the top. The mochi case was lovely and soft, just as one would expect Japanese mochi to be. This was immensely gratifying as finding a shelf stable mochi snack for a good price has been very difficult since I came to California. The Japanese-made ones that are sold in such packaging costs between $5-$7 (421-589 yen) and tend to be in fruit flavors for some reason.

I really liked these and would buy them again in a hear beat. In fact, I regretted not buying a box of each flavor after sampling this one. While I don't think that I could count on the taste of each flavor being good, I think that the basic textural components would be similar and that is often where a good mochi sweet lives or dies.

As a little reminder to readers who may have missed it, or to those who haven't gotten around to entering, I'm offering a box of the current Tokyo regional KitKats (rum raisin) as a contest prize. You can read about it and enter here. The contest ends on Christmas day 2012, so enter early, but only once, please. Also, please remember that comments are moderated so there is a delay between your making the comment and it being posted. Many people are submitting comments two or three times because they are not showing up immediately. Rest assured that your comment will be posted and it is not necessary to submit multiple times. 


8 comments:

Malin Myklebust said...

The sesame seed ones are very yummy :)

Malin Myklebust said...

The sesame seed ones are really good :) they sell them in asian food stores here. Imported from Thailand. But I think they taste the same either way <3

silentwise said...

Isn't taro = yam?

silentwise said...

Actually the Green Tea mochi isn't too overpowering sweetness just the great taste for fresh and soft.

Orchid64 said...

silentwise: Yes, it is yam, but not yams are very different in different places. Yams in the mainland U.S. are bright orange, for instance. So, calling it a yam would be very misleading in an English language blog.

Thanks for reading!

nhi to said...

Green tea is by far the best for me♥♥♡♡

Matt Steele said...

Brown Sugar is my favorite

Lynn said...

Is this gluten free?