Big squidgy balls of sweet, gooey goodness. What is there not to like about mochi? While I wouldn’t pretend to know the first thing about how to make the wobbly buggers, they’re something I always try to pick up from Asian stores when I see them.
And nowhere stocks a range (in my very limited experience) like the Japan Centre. Black sesame, green tea, pink strawberry and plain white. Brightly coloured, neatly wrapped bubbles of fun waiting to catch your eye as you cruise on by.
A mochi looks something like a large squishy pebble. It’s a glutinous, thick and elastic rice wrapper, sometimes flavoured with something like green tea or rolled in sesame seeds, containing a filling of some sort. Often sweetened red bean paste, or maybe a whole strawberry.
Trying to grip a mochi is like holding a kitten that doesn’t want to stay still, it keeps slipping through your fingers. The joy is all about the contrasts of taste, texture and colour, and the fun of actually eating the slippery thing.
The red bean paste itself is definitely an acquired taste, but well worth acquiring. It’s gently sweet and earthy, like red ambrosial soil. The wrapper’s elastic and slightly chewy and clings to your teeth in a deliciously glutinous way.
Eating it feels decadent, like slurping down a live oyster. And as you take your first bite, it sags in the middle, sending you a wide red knowing grin as the wrapper stretches and the paste starts to slip through your fingers.
Did I mention how much I love them. And they’re only £1.20 each. Bargain.
The Japan Centre, 14 – 16 Regent St, London, SW1Y 4PH, 020 3405 1151, www.japancentre.com