Translated by Jay Issei Karslake
Fastest Mochi Making In Japan! Come To Nakatanidō In Nara
Written by Eri Takizawa
Ever wanted to witness how mochi is made? Or are you wondering just what mochi is? Here's your chance to learn more about this delicious Japanese dish.
What Is Mochi?
Mochi (soft rice cakse) are one of Japan's traditional foods, made of sweet, glutinous rice. Mochi are often eaten around the start of the New Year or during other celebrations. They are an indispensable part of Japanese food culture.
There are two different types of mochi. The first is tsukimochi, where you pound steamed rice into shape and the second is nerimochi which is made from steamed kneaded grain powder. Both types of mochi are quite sticky and typically eaten by adding your favorite seasonings, such as soy sauce or sugar.
Tsukimochi is perhaps the most common type of mochi in Japan. The process of making this sticky rice cake is called mochitsuki and requires two main tools: an usu and a kine. The usu is a large container where the center has been carved out in a semi circle (similar to a mortar), while the kine is a large mallet-shaped tool (used similarly to a pestle). Mochi rice cakes are made by using the kine to crush down and knead the steamed rice inside the usu.
A Well-known Mochitsuki Shop: Nakatanidō in Nara
We heard of a famous mochitsuki shop in Nara prefecture, home to World Heritage sites like Tōdaiji Temple and Kasuga Taisha Shrine, so we decided that we just had to check it out.
This mochitsuki shop is Nakatanidō.
Of course the mochi made here is delicious, but the shop is actually best known nationwide for its speed in mochitsuki. But how fast is it really? There is a video of the mochitsuki in process, so let's take a look at that first.
What do you think? I was most surprised by the speed, especially at minute 01:00. Despite how impressive this is, mochitsuki isn't just done for the sake of performance. By forming the mochi while it's still hot, you maintain its softness and make a delicious mochi that is sticky and elastic.
Yomogimochi in particular is made at Nakatanidō. Yomogimochi is regular mochi that has had yomogi (Japanese mugwort) added to it. At Nakatanidō, their yomogimochi cakes are covered in kinako (roasted soybean powder). The fresh scent of the yomogi and aromatic fragrance of the kinako combine to make an incredibly delicious mochi cake.
The Shocking Softness of Yomogimochi
Let's try some! If you want to eat it upon purchase you line up on the left and if you want to take it home you stand on the right side. When you reach the front, first tell the clerk how much you want to buy and then make your purchase.
Yomogimochi cakes can be bought for an affordable 130 yen each and, if you buy eight or more, you will get a discount.
The yomogimochi cake that is handed to you is still warm and feels so soft that it seems like it would fall apart in your hands. If you were to compare it to a Western food, it feels a bit like melted marshmallows or cheese. Be sure to eat it before it loses its shape.
As soon as you try to take a bite it stretches right out.
We tested to see how much it would stretch. It's so soft that it will stretch this far with ease.
Inside the cake there is anko (red bean paste) that has just the right amount of sweetness. Anko is one of the main ingredients used in Japanese snacks and is made by boiling and then adding a sweetener to the beans.
At Nakatanidō they boil azuki beans that come from Hokkaido's Tokachi area and use tsubuan paste, which has a moderate amount of the beans skin left on. The soft and refreshing flavor of the yomogimochi matches so well with the sweetness of the bean paste, that it is almost addictive. I ate two of them on this day.
The Route to Nakatanidō
Nakatanidō is located close to the Kintetsu Nara Station, which is also a convenient station to be at when you want to see the World Heritage sites Tōdaiji and Kasuga Taisha. To get to Nakatanidō, you head out of Kintestu Nara station's east exit, go up to the ground level and head straight past the fountain to the outdoor shopping street.
As you walk, you should find Nakatanidō at the end of the left side of the outdoor shopping street. There are always customers gathered around, so you should be able to find it quickly.
In the past it was quite easy to see mochitsuki during the New Years, but in recent years it has been increasingly difficult to see it being made right before your eyes.
When visiting the numerous incredible sites in Nara, why not make a stop at Nakatanidō to witness and taste a part of Japan's delicious traditional food culture?
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Menu in Other Languages: -
Nearest Station: Nara station (奈良駅) on the Kintetsu Nara line
Access: 5-minute walk from the 2nd exit of Nara station
Price Range: From 130 yen for 1 yomogimochi
Phone Number: +81-3-0742-23-0141
Homepage: Nakatanidō (Japanese only)