When the storms hit after Christmas the Mochi Tsuki Festival at Islandwood, courtesy the Bainbridge Island Japanese American Community, was one of the casualties — fortunately it was just postponed.

We've never been to the long-time Island affair and we were excited, the gorgeous blue skies, perfect temperatures and outdoor venue at Islandwood certainly helped!

rice cooking over an open fire

I, for one, was unclear on the mochi making process. Like so many great foods it starts over an open fire — the firebox on the bottom, hot water in the tubs and the rice steaming in boxes over the boiling water.

rice in the granite bowl

From the fire the rice is dropped into a large granite bowl — rumor has it no one knows the age of Bainbridge's. The consistency of the rice at this point in the process doesn't look much different from a nearly done risotto.


To finish it off, out come the mallets and the pounding begins. There are a couple different methods, done in progression, for removing the moisture from the rice. First, some simple kneading with a couple of mallets, carefully orchestrated — unless of course a volunteer from the crowd is helping and keeps hitting the other guy in the head with the mallet handle. Then, in our case, three work in unison, swinging away.

hitting the rice hands away!

Finally it's down to one mallet and one set of hands. The mallet strikes down, then up, the hands go in, folding the mochi as you'd knead dough, hands out, mallet hammers home again, mallet up, hands in, mallet, hands — all the while chants ring out.

rolling the balls out

The finished product is pinched off into balls, variously stuffed — I've read ice cream is a popular center. My daughter rolled out her own, stuffed in the center with red beans and sugar — yum! It's definitely my kind of sweet.

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