A Savoury and Sweet Guide to Kirimochi: Exploring Japan's Versatile Rice Cake

A Savoury and Sweet Guide to Kirimochi: Exploring Japan's Versatile Rice Cake

If you're intrigued by Japan’s unique food culture, you've likely heard about mochi (餅), a delightful culinary treat that's steeped in tradition and versatility. This versatile rice cake has a myriad of uses, from festive dishes to everyday snacks, and the most beloved type of mochi in Japan is undoubtedly Kirimochi.

 

What is Kirimochi?

Glutinous rice grains
Short-grain glutinous rice called mochigome. Photo by photoAC

Kirimochi (切り餅), or cut mochi, is your ordinary mochi but shaped into small, flat rectangles or squares. Mochi is made from a type of short-grain glutinous rice known as mochigome (餅米), which is painstakingly soaked, steamed, and pounded until it becomes a soft, chewy mass. Once this mass is formed, it can be shaped into kirimochi blocks, which are then left to dry, preserving them and extending their shelf life.


grilled kirimochi
Photo by photoAC

The beauty of kirimochi lies in its simplicity and versatility. With its mild, subtly sweet flavour and delightfully chewy texture, kirimochi can be used in a wide range of dishes, from savoury soups and stir-fries to sweet desserts. It's a beloved staple in Japanese households, a food item that's deeply ingrained in the culinary and cultural fabric of Japan.

 

History of Kirimochi

Kirimochi, mochi pounding
The traditional art of mochitsuki | Photo by Pakutaso

The tradition of making and eating mochi, including kirimochi, dates back to the Yayoi Period (300BC–300AD) in Japan, where it played a vital role in religious ceremonies and offerings. Mochi was seen as a symbol of purity and was offered to the gods to gain their favour. It was also believed to contain the spirit of the rice plant, making it a sacred food in Shinto rituals.

 

Mochitsuki
Mochitsuki | Photo by Pakutaso

The process of making kirimochi, or any mochi for that matter, used to be a labour-intensive task that required the collective effort of the community. This age-old tradition, known as mochitsuki (餅つき), involved soaking the rice overnight, steaming it, and then pounding it with wooden mallets in a ceremony filled with joy and camaraderie.

 

Pounding rice into mochi
Piping hot glutinous rice ready to be pounded into mochi | Photo by photoAC

In today's modern world, mochitsuki is mostly carried out during special occasions. The invention of machines has made it easier to produce mochi on a large scale, allowing people to enjoy kirimochi and other types of mochi anytime they like. Despite these modern conveniences, the traditional art of mochitsuki is still treasured and practiced today, serving as a poignant reminder of Japan's rich history and culture.

 

When Do People Eat Kirimochi?

In everyday life, kirimochi is consumed as a versatile ingredient in home cooking. It's an easy way to add substance and chewiness to a meal, making it a favourite in dishes like nabe (鍋 hot pot).

 

Ozoni soup
Varieties of ozoni typically consumed during Shogatsu | Photo by photoAC

While kirimochi can be enjoyed year-round, there are specific occasions when its consumption becomes more prevalent. For instance, during the New Year's festivities, it's common to find kirimochi in ozoni (お雑煮), a special soup that varies by region but always contains mochi. This dish is eaten as the first breakfast of the year, symbolizing longevity and well-being.

 

Hishimochi
Hishi-mochi | Photo by photoAC

Another occasion is the Doll's Festival or Hina-matsuri (ひな祭り), celebrated on 3rd March every year. Families with young daughters mark this day by setting up a display of ornamental dolls, and hishi-mochi (菱餅), a diamond-shaped colorful mochi, is prepared. Though it's not kirimochi per se, the spirit of mochi pervades this celebration of health and happiness for girls.

 

Where Can I Buy Kirimochi?

Cutting mochiFreshly-cut kirimochi | Photo by photoAC

In Japan, kirimochi can be found everywhere from supermarkets to convenience stores. It's typically sold in vacuum-sealed packages, ready to be cooked and enjoyed at home. Each package contains several blocks of kirimochi, which are usually individually wrapped for convenience.

For those living outside of Japan, kirimochi can be found in Japanese or Asian grocery stores, often in the frozen food section. If physical stores aren't accessible, don't fret—many online platforms sell kirimochi and ship worldwide, ensuring that everyone can get a taste of this delightful Japanese treat!

 

 

Ways to Cook Kirimochi

Kirimochi is incredibly easy to prepare, and its chewy texture and mild flavor make it a versatile addition to many dishes. Here are a few ways you can cook kirimochi:


  • Grilled or Pan-fried Kirimochi: This is the simplest and most straightforward method. Just grill or pan-fry the kirimochi until it puffs up and turns golden brown. The result is yakimochi (焼き餅), a crispy exterior with a gooey, chewy interior—an irresistible combo! Enjoy it with a drizzle of sweet soy sauce, a dusting of kinako (きな粉 roasted soybean flour), or a dollop of anko (あんこ sweet red bean paste).

  • Boiled Kirimochi: You can also boil kirimochi, which gives it a softer, stickier texture. This method is commonly used when adding kirimochi to hotpots like soup and stews.

  • Baked Kirimochi: Another fun way to cook kirimochi is by baking it in the oven. This method takes a bit longer, but it results in a uniformly golden and slightly crispy kirimochi.

No matter which cooking method you choose, remember to watch the kirimochi carefully, as it can go from perfectly cooked to burnt in a matter of seconds!

 

Ways to Eat Kirimochi

After cooking your kirimochi, there are countless ways to enjoy this versatile food. Let's explore some popular options:

 

Isobeyaki, mochi wrapped in seaweedPhoto by photoAC

Isobeyaki (磯部焼き): A popular way to enjoy kirimochi is to make Isobeyaki—grilled kirimochi wrapped in nori (seaweed) and brushed with soy sauce. The salty, umami-rich seaweed pairs wonderfully with the chewy, subtly sweet kirimochi.

 

Zenzai, redbean soup with kirimochi
Photo by photoAC

Zenzai (ぜんざい): In this sweet treat, kirimochi is added to zenzai, a warm, sweet red bean soup. It's a comforting dish that's especially popular during the cold winter months.

 

Ozoni wtih mochiPhoto by photoAC

Ozoni (お雑煮): As mentioned earlier, ozoni is a traditional soup eaten during the New Year celebrations, featuring kirimochi as a main ingredient. The soup can be soy-based or miso-based, and the ingredients can vary greatly depending on the region.


“We Love You So Mochi”

Kirimochi and green tea
Photo by photoAC

Whether you're a longtime lover of Japanese cuisine or a newcomer eager to explore, kirimochi is a must-try food that embodies the soul of Japanese culinary tradition. It's a simple yet versatile ingredient, one that can bring joy and satisfaction in every bite, be it sweet or savoury.

Kirimochi's deep roots in Japan's history, its cultural significance, and its role in various festivities make it more than just a food item—it's a symbol of Japan's respect for tradition, community, and the simple pleasures of life. Whether you're savouring a piece of freshly grilled kirimochi, relishing a warm bowl of zenzai, or enjoying a festive meal of ozoni, you're participating in a culinary tradition that spans thousands of years.

With so many ways to cook and enjoy kirimochi, your culinary adventure is just beginning. Each recipe presents a chance to create something delicious, warming your belly and your heart with every bite.

 

Mochi Snacks and More by JAPAN RAIL CLUB

If you'd like to dive deeper into the world of Japanese cuisine, why not consider subscribing to a Japanese Snack Box? Curated by JAPAN RAIL CLUB, these boxes offer a taste of Japan's seasonal delights, delivering a selection of high-quality snacks and ingredients right to your doorstep. From the classic flavours of mochi and senbei to other seasonal delights, each box is a culinary journey through Japan's rich and varied food culture.

Embrace the world of kirimochi today, and discover the delicious possibilities of Japan's versatile rice cake and cuisine! Remember, every bite is a taste of history, a moment of joy, and a celebration of the simple, comforting pleasures of food. Happy munching!

Meet the author

Snack Lover

JAPAN RAIL CLUB's resident Snack Lover is on a mission to prove that there's a world of wonder within each snack! Whether in the form of a blog post or an info bite, find out more about the history, culture, and stories of each snack that Japan has to offer with Snack Lover. Snack Lover believes that it's not just about the snacks; it's about sharing, connecting, and creating unforgettable moments with loved ones.

Hungry for more?

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當提到日本的綠茶,大家都知道日本京都是茶文化的中心。 綠茶一開始是在西元9世紀,由幾個佛教僧侶從中國引進到日本的。在日本人的生活中,綠茶已經成為一種有著許多用途而且對人體健康的飲品。 作為日本文化的一部分,抹茶、煎茶和玉露等的綠茶品種也提供了多樣的口味選擇和體驗。例如傳統的日本茶道,不僅喝茶能帶來健康,茶道更成為了日本獨一無二的文化。

Sue Lynn Maker's Story

製茶故事:京都舞妓之茶本舖

當提到日本的綠茶,大家都知道日本京都是茶文化的中心。 綠茶一開始是在西元9世紀,由幾個佛教僧侶從中國引進到日本的。在日本人的生活中,綠茶已經成為一種有著許多用途而且對人體健康的飲品。 作為日本文化的一部分,抹茶、煎茶和玉露等的綠茶品種也提供了多樣的口味選擇和體驗。例如傳統的日本茶道,不僅喝茶能帶來健康,茶道更成為了日本獨一無二的文化。

Maker's Story: Gyokuro Tea from Kyoto by Maikonocha Honpo
Sue Lynn

Maker's Story: Gyokuro Tea from Kyoto by Maikon...

When it comes to green tea from Japan, Kyoto stands as the hub of tea culture. Originally introduced by returning Buddhist monks from their travels in China in the 9th...

Sue Lynn Food

Maker's Story: Gyokuro Tea from Kyoto by Maikon...

When it comes to green tea from Japan, Kyoto stands as the hub of tea...

Maker’s Story: Premium Matcha Products from Uji, Kyoto by Kyoeiseicha
Sue Lynn

Maker’s Story: Premium Matcha Products from Uji...

This May, JAPAN RAIL CLUB celebrates the joy that matcha brings to our lives with the special “So Much Matcha” Omiyage Snack Box. May marks the start of the traditional...

Sue Lynn Maker's Story

Maker’s Story: Premium Matcha Products from Uji...

This May, JAPAN RAIL CLUB celebrates the joy that matcha brings to our lives with...

綠之日快樂!一起來探索日本新綠季節中五個不能錯過的景點
Sue Lynn

綠之日快樂!一起來探索日本新綠季節中五個不能錯過的景點

在日本眾多節慶與珍貴傳統之中,有一個特別關於自然崇敬的慶典——綠之日。這個國定假日訂於每年五月四日,見證了日本與自然的深厚連結,也提醒人們欣賞這個70%都是山區的島國上,那些美麗的綠色景觀。

Carissa Loh Culture

綠之日快樂!一起來探索日本新綠季節中五個不能錯過的景點

在日本眾多節慶與珍貴傳統之中,有一個特別關於自然崇敬的慶典——綠之日。這個國定假日訂於每年五月四日,見證了日本與自然的深厚連結,也提醒人們欣賞這個70%都是山區的島國上,那些美麗的綠色景觀。

Happy Greenery Day: 5 Must-Visit Places to Explore During Japan's Shinryoku Season
Sue Lynn

Happy Greenery Day: 5 Must-Visit Places to Expl...

Nestled amongst Japan’s vibrant festivities and cherished traditions lies a celebration rooted in reverence for nature―Midori-no-Hi (みどりの日 Greenery Day). Observed annually on 4 May, this national holiday is a testament...

Carissa Loh Culture

Happy Greenery Day: 5 Must-Visit Places to Expl...

Nestled amongst Japan’s vibrant festivities and cherished traditions lies a celebration rooted in reverence for...

Fresh From Hokkaido: A Guide to Sapporo Central Wholesale Market
Sue Lynn

Fresh From Hokkaido: A Guide to Sapporo Central...

Hokkaido is Japan’s food paradise as the northernmost part of the country is the top producer of agricultural products and seafood: the vast lands covering Japan’s second largest island and...

Wendy Ng

Fresh From Hokkaido: A Guide to Sapporo Central...

Hokkaido is Japan’s food paradise as the northernmost part of the country is the top...

Nihon Sankei (日本三景): The Three Scenic Views of Japan
Sue Lynn

Nihon Sankei (日本三景): The Three Scenic Views of ...

Japan is an island nation that has always been known for its stunningly beautiful landscapes but even amongst these, there are three locations that rise above the others and are...

Dawn Sim Nature

Nihon Sankei (日本三景): The Three Scenic Views of ...

Japan is an island nation that has always been known for its stunningly beautiful landscapes...

Japan celebrates Golden Week between April 29 to May 5
Sue Lynn

Golden Week: Exploring Japan's Week-Long Festiv...

What is Golden Week? Golden Week (ゴールデンウィーク or 黄金週間 Ogon Shukan), recognised as one of Japan's most prominent and bustling holiday periods, usually spans from late April to early May...

Dawn Sim Culture

Golden Week: Exploring Japan's Week-Long Festiv...

What is Golden Week? Golden Week (ゴールデンウィーク or 黄金週間 Ogon Shukan), recognised as one of...

春暖花開:櫻花之外的六種當季花卉
Sue Lynn

春暖花開:櫻花之外的六種當季花卉

賞花的樂趣之一,就是它們轉瞬即逝的特性:花期每季只有幾天,但那短暫幾天卻難忘極了。來看看六種春天當季花卉,以及賞花最佳時機!

Carissa Loh Nature

春暖花開:櫻花之外的六種當季花卉

賞花的樂趣之一,就是它們轉瞬即逝的特性:花期每季只有幾天,但那短暫幾天卻難忘極了。來看看六種春天當季花卉,以及賞花最佳時機!

Spring Beginnings: 6 Seasonal Flowers Other Than Sakura
Sue Lynn

Spring Beginnings: 6 Seasonal Flowers Other Tha...

Flowers herald the beginning of spring, and in Japan, no flower is more synonymous with spring than the beloved cherry blossom (桜 sakura). However, other than these pretty, pink blossoms,...

Carissa Loh Nature

Spring Beginnings: 6 Seasonal Flowers Other Tha...

Flowers herald the beginning of spring, and in Japan, no flower is more synonymous with...

Spring Beginnings: 7 Things to Do in Japan in April and May
Sue Lynn

Spring Beginnings: 7 Things to Do in Japan in A...

Cherry blossoms, or sakura, are flowers symbolic of spring, often alluded to the promise of a new beginning in many Japanese literature. | Photo by Dawn Sim   A symbol...

Dawn Sim Spring

Spring Beginnings: 7 Things to Do in Japan in A...

Cherry blossoms, or sakura, are flowers symbolic of spring, often alluded to the promise of...

Spring Beginnings: 6 Must-Try Spring Foods in Japan
Sue Lynn

Spring Beginnings: 6 Must-Try Spring Foods in J...

Spring in Japan is a time for celebration as the season marks new beginnings. Other than the mesmerising cherry blossoms painting the landscape, spring is the best season to experience...

Wendy Ng Food

Spring Beginnings: 6 Must-Try Spring Foods in J...

Spring in Japan is a time for celebration as the season marks new beginnings. Other...

Spring Beginnings: 6 Must-Visit Spring Festivals in Japan
Sue Lynn

Spring Beginnings: 6 Must-Visit Spring Festival...

Photo by cyesuta (CC BY-SA 2.0)   Spring is a season of new beginnings, bringing with it beautiful flowers, comfortable temperatures, and a time of celebration. While most travellers head...

Carissa Loh Festival

Spring Beginnings: 6 Must-Visit Spring Festival...

Photo by cyesuta (CC BY-SA 2.0)   Spring is a season of new beginnings, bringing...

Castle Day (6 April): 10 Must-Visit Castles in Japan
Sue Lynn

Castle Day (6 April): 10 Must-Visit Castles in ...

Matsue Castle in spring. | Photo by 島根県観光連盟 Japan, a nation celebrated for its rich history and enduring cultural heritage, is particularly famous for its magnificent Japanese castles (お城 oshiro)....

Carissa Loh Culture

Castle Day (6 April): 10 Must-Visit Castles in ...

Matsue Castle in spring. | Photo by 島根県観光連盟 Japan, a nation celebrated for its rich...

Sakura Karinto and Marui Suzuki
Sue Lynn

Maker’s Story: Seasonal Karinto Snacks from Tok...

April marks the official arrival of spring in Japan, and one of the cherished traditions of celebrating this season is to enjoy “ohanami” (お花見)! Ohanami means “flower-viewing”, and this is...

Sue Lynn Maker's Story

Maker’s Story: Seasonal Karinto Snacks from Tok...

April marks the official arrival of spring in Japan, and one of the cherished traditions...

A Guide to Sakura in Tohoku: Best Cherry Blossom Viewing Spots in Northeast Japan
Sue Lynn

A Guide to Sakura in Tohoku: Best Cherry Blosso...

Hirosaki Castle Park | Photo by Aomori Prefecture Cherry blossoms or sakura (桜) herald the start of springtime in Japan. Spring is the prettiest and most enjoyable season with radiant...

Wendy Ng Spring

A Guide to Sakura in Tohoku: Best Cherry Blosso...

Hirosaki Castle Park | Photo by Aomori Prefecture Cherry blossoms or sakura (桜) herald the...

A Guide to Japanese Shochu: A Tasting Tour of Shochu Distilleries in Miyazaki
Sue Lynn

A Guide to Japanese Shochu: A Tasting Tour of S...

Shochu (焼酎) is one of the most consumed alcoholic beverages in Japan and the Japanese drink more shochu than sake. Considered to be Japan's national spirit, Shochu is gaining great...

Wendy Ng

A Guide to Japanese Shochu: A Tasting Tour of S...

Shochu (焼酎) is one of the most consumed alcoholic beverages in Japan and the Japanese...

Tohoku: A Tale of Tradition through its Cultural Icons
Sue Lynn

Tohoku: A Tale of Tradition through its Cultura...

Statues of the Namahage located in Oga Peninsula. | Photo by PhotoAC Steeped in tradition, Tohoku (東北), the northeastern part of Japan comprising of six prefectures – Aomori (青森), Akita...

Dawn Sim Culture

Tohoku: A Tale of Tradition through its Cultura...

Statues of the Namahage located in Oga Peninsula. | Photo by PhotoAC Steeped in tradition,...

Tasty Tohoku Treats: 6 Must-Try Food from Northeast Japan
Sue Lynn

Tasty Tohoku Treats: 6 Must-Try Food from North...

Japan is a food paradise and beyond the major cities and well-trodden travel routes, you can unearth more culinary treasures spread throughout the country if you venture into the less...

Wendy Ng Food

Tasty Tohoku Treats: 6 Must-Try Food from North...

Japan is a food paradise and beyond the major cities and well-trodden travel routes, you...

Sakura 2024: 5 Must-Visit Cherry Blossom Spots in Tokyo for Ohanami
Sue Lynn

Sakura 2024: 5 Must-Visit Cherry Blossom Spots ...

If you have visited Tokyo between late March and early April, then chances are you have witnessed the enchanting sight of cherry blossoms (桜 sakura) in full bloom. A cherry...

Carissa Loh Culture

Sakura 2024: 5 Must-Visit Cherry Blossom Spots ...

If you have visited Tokyo between late March and early April, then chances are you...

Tasty Tohoku Treats: 6 Must-Buy Souvenirs from Tohoku
Sue Lynn

Tasty Tohoku Treats: 6 Must-Buy Souvenirs from ...

Located on the north-eastern part of mainland Japan, Tohoku (東北) is made up of six prefectures, and is a treasure trove of beautiful nature and fascinating history. It’s a wonderful...

Carissa Loh Food

Tasty Tohoku Treats: 6 Must-Buy Souvenirs from ...

Located on the north-eastern part of mainland Japan, Tohoku (東北) is made up of six...

Omiyage Day (8 March): Exploring Japan's Souvenir & Gift-Giving Culture
Sue Lynn

Omiyage Day (8 March): Exploring Japan's Souven...

Have you heard of omiyage (お土産)? If you’ve been to Japan, then you have probably seen the colourful and beautifully packaged boxes of local confectionery filling the gift shops along...

Carissa Loh Culture

Omiyage Day (8 March): Exploring Japan's Souven...

Have you heard of omiyage (お土産)? If you’ve been to Japan, then you have probably...