Mochis are made using steamed rice. Photo: Markus Winkler

The fascinating world of Asian desserts

Everyone in line in front of me seemed to be experts in ordering tea but when it was my turn, I wasn’t quite sure what was expected of me (similar to the first – and only time – I went to Starbucks).

So after a look at the menu, I ordered winter melon flavour and even had the choice of bubbles. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the winter melon flavour – it was not sweet (which I liked) but my tastebuds weren’t detecting any melon flavour. But I loved the bubbles – rather fun to be honest and I will definitely try a bubble tea again.

The tea shop also sold mochis – little buns made from glutinous rice which is pounded to form little balls and filled with different fillings. The rice can be flavoured differently as well.

I chose a matcha flavoured mochi filled with red bean paste. As with the bubble tea, I wasn’t sure what to expect but as I am on a discovery journey into Asian food, I thought I’d give it a go.

Now, the texture was the weirdest for me – soft, spongy, a bit elastic and airy all at the same time. The matcha flavour was subtle and not too sweet and the red bean filling was actually very nice. Traditionally, the process of making mochis was quite labour-intensive with glutinous rice being soaked overnight and steamed. The steamed rice was then mashed and pounded with wooden mallets in a mortar – the mortar was quite large so two people were mostly involved. The resulting sticky paste was then formed into shapes.

The modern commercial process of making mochis is much easier as rice flour is being used to speed up the process. Making mochi at home sounds also easy (I haven’t tried it yet but it’s on my bucket list) as all you need is glutinous rice flour, water, filling (you can buy the red bean paste in Asian shops), sugar and cornstarch (for rolling the shapes) and if you wanted to flavour the rice ball itself, you would need match powder (or any other flavouring) and that’s it.

Recipes I read so far are made in the microwave but since I don’t have one, I would stick to the steaming method.

When I say the recipe sounds easy, it means it sounds easy - not that it is. From what I saw so far, the texture of the dough comes from steaming (if you use a microwave you will have to cover the bowl with heatproof wrap to create the steaming effect).

After mixing the flour and water in a bowl, you’ll steam it for about 20 minutes after which the dough needs to be transferred to a pot where sugar is added and with constant stirring, it’s cooked until the sugar has dissolved. Then you spread cornstarch on a tray and dust your hands well while forming the balls (and adding the filling) and rolling them in the cornstarch.

Sounds easy right? Watch this space – at a moment of madness, I might just try them at home.