In China, the lunar new year holiday lasts a whole month. It starts about fifteen days before new year's day and lasts fifteen days after, until today, the day of the first lunar full moon in the new year. Peak outside and you'll see that thousands of years of wisdom is not wrong, the moon is indeed round and bright. On this day, we perform the last ritual of the new year period (a different ritual takes place every day of the new year period and mostly revolves around food), we make and eat mochies as round as the moon.
In my childhood, my mom would start soaking some glutinous rice harvested the previous year shortly after new year's day. A couple of days later, we'd all participate in making the rice paste that'd go into our mochies on the day of the full moon. To do so, we'd grind the soaked rice into a liquid paste using a large round millstone. My duty was always to feed the rice and water into the hole cut into the top grinding part and it never ceased to amaze me how two simple pieces of stones were able to rubbed together and turn the translucent rice grains into a milky liquid. A sloped stone channel that wraps around the millstone catches all the dripping and feeds it into a cloth sack.
Mom would hang the sack to drain over a bucket for a few days until the paste inside reached the consistency of play dough. If mom timed it just right, the paste would be ready on the full moon day and we'd all gather again to make mochies.
As a little girl, I favored the mini mochies that are unfilled and boiled in broth made of fermented rice and sweetened with cane sugar. It always made me incredibly happy. Now I know why - fermented rice equals unfiltered sake!!! :) Mochies boiled in sake, now that's a beautiful thing. The adults always preferred the filled mochies, and my mom made the most wonderful roasted black sesame ones that filled the mouth with rich liquidy sesame goodness made sticky with rendered lard. Think hot butter and sesame paste and you get the gist of this combination. Now image that unleashed with abandon in every bite of the smooth mochie skin. That's wonderful stuff.
My husband also grew up with the mochie eating tradition, but in Singapore, his mochies floated in a sugared hot ginger broth. Now, we make both the sake and ginger versions to make everyone happy. The above photo shows a mochie filling my mom concocted this year that included freshly ground roasted and salted peanuts. It was a textural surprise and quite well received.
Can I say again how nice it is to have family around again after twelve years of being away? It's mighty nice.