I had adventures with mochi blocks this weekend. I don't know the correct term for them, so that is what they will be called.
First, let me explain mochi (I know many of you know what it is, but some might not). It first entered my consciousness in 2004 because Super Milk-Chan talks about eating rice cakes all the time. These aren't the dry, crumbly kind that Americans eat when they want to lose weight or "be healthy" – she's really talking about mochi. According to wiseGEEK,
Mochi is made by soaking short grain glutinous or sticky rice overnight, cooking it, and pounding it into a sticky paste. The paste is molded into shapes...I think the most mainstream form that we're used to here looks like this:
That one is filled with red bean paste. This stuff is very popular in Japan, as I increasingly saw when I was there in April. My cousin's wife in Nagasaki made me the most delicious snack one day called isobe maki. It was unlike anything I had ever tasted. It involved mochi blocks (again, remember, they probably have a better name but I don't know it). They are little individually wrapped rectangular blocks of the stuff; they look like mini bars of soap. When cooked, they expand a little and get very chewy and sticky. They were wrapped in a specific way (she had to teach me) in two sheets of seaweed, and dipped into this thick mixture of soy sauce and sugar. I thought I had died and gone to heaven.
Last week I randomly saw a package of these blocks in an Asian Market and squeaked of happiness.
I immediately also bought seaweed sheets. This weekend, I tried making isobe maki. I was nervous, because all I remembered my cousin saying was "cook in pan." So, I tried that. Good thing there aren't too many ingredients.
It worked! I had also remembered how to wrap it in the seaweed.
I was so excited and delighted by this that I made it in a different way the following morning for breakfast. This time, I boiled it (to not have the cooking oil taste) and ate it with honey and strawberries. This was inspired by my friend Jess' mother, who used to make it with honey for her before school tests as a child so that the information "would stick to her brain more." Cute, yes?
Now the tiniest lesson imaginable: The Japanese word for "delicious" is "oishii." Pronounced "oi-SHEE."