From afar, they look like cute little hedgehogs stored inside a glass fridge. Passing through the shops, these delicacies are usually caged inside glasses and presented to customers as is — light-colored, small circular cakes lined together in rows.
They are increasingly becoming quite popular nowadays in shopping malls. But unaware passersby, with their presentation, would normally ignore them and get on with their lives. For one, who would spend around PHP 75.00 per small piece of the cakes seeing it so plain on the outside?
But one night, I tried to buy a couple of the cakes that the native Japanese call “mochi cakes.” I have to admit I loved the pastry from the first bite.
Mochi cakes are Japanese rice cakes made from glutinous rice, the same ingredient that makes up a round of tikoy, for the Chinese.
They are among those delicacies that look innocent on the outside, but are unwittingly much tastier on the inside. Mochis are filled with unexpected tastes, that many first-timers would think they are served hot but from the first bite, they are cold heaven.
Mochi cakes are made of rice on the outside but are filled with different flavors inside. They come in different flavors such as pumpkin, butter, mango, strawberry, and chocolate. There are also other recipes that fill them with apricot, maple and soy beans.
I visited the store called Mochi Cream Cafe in Quezon City to try out how they taste like. This shop and other similar stores have opened branches in many cities around the world including Shanghai, New York, Kuala Lumpur and in Manila.
Like the Chinese tradition of eating rice cakes, mochi cakes are consumed during New Year rituals and ceremonies in Japan. They are also used as toppings for soups during celebrations, as well as ice creams that children enjoy around Japanese villages.
I tried three pieces of mochi cakes on my first visit and ordered a ceremonial matcha tea. The tea went well with the mochis and I got the prepare the ceremonial tea by myself as well.
The ceremonial matcha tea served to me was complete with a ceremonial bowl, not a cup; a bamboo whisk; a bamboo stirrer; and a black heavy tea kettle that is far from the traditional looks of Chinese tea materials.
Matcha, on the other hand, is a tea powder, not leaves, that are often used in rituals and ceremonies performed by Japanese monks.
The tea became a perfect pair for my mochi cakes that night, with a few spaces between drinking the tea and taking a bite, because of the contrasting temperatures of the hot tea and the cold cakes.
I might have been a little earlier for the Japanese new year but with these mochi cafes hanging just around the corner, we can celebrate the goodness of New Year, all-year round.