A popular confectionery around the New Year’s season in Japan is mochi. Mochi is often translated to “rice cake” but is nothing like the Styrofoam discs of the same name that are popular in some countries and doesn’t really resemble a cake at all. It can either be more like a soft “rice gummy”, usually stuffed with sugary foods like sweet beans, strawberry, or even ice cream; or like a “condensed rice block”, which is often basted in soy sauce, grilled, and wrapped in seaweed.
Mochi is made by whacking rice in a tub repeatedly with a giant wooden mallet, a fun but tiring holiday festivity. During New Year’s mochi is sold in a small snowman like configuration called kagami mochi (pictured above) which serves as a decoration until it is eaten after 1 January.
While all of this sounds fun, mochi has a dark side as well – one that foreigners who try it for the first time often realize quickly: It’s chewy, sticky, and really hard to eat.
And if you’re not careful, this little snack could land you in the ER.