While you might be tempted to think that mochi is just a dessert fad, there's so much more to mochi than that. Mochi has a rich history in Japanese culture and is still immensely popular there today. On one of your late-night runs to the Whole Foods mochi bar, did you ever stop to consider whether or not you're pronouncing it the right way? Mou-ji, mou-shee, moh-shee, or moh-ji – which is the correct way of pronouncing it? You may be confused, but from my experience it’s better to get into the details of the treat first to fully understand how to pronounce mochi.

Mochi is known throughout the US as a chewy, sweet dessert that's often filled with ice cream. However, it’s much bigger than that in Japan and throughout East and Southeast Asia. I personally had to do extensive research on the history of mochi and ask my Japanese friends for help to really get at the importance of this treat.

What is Mochi?

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Heather Feibleman

Mochi is made out of rice. No, it’s not white or brown rice – it’s actually made from a much stickier rice called mochigome AKA glutinous rice. Mochi is traditionally made by pounding glutinous rice into a paste, then molding it into various shapes and sizes. Most mochi today are made using modern machines, but there are still establishments that do it the traditional way.

The existence of mochi dates back to at least 1,200 years ago. Written historical accounts from the Nara Period (710-794 CE) showed that they considered mochi a sacred food. To this day, mochi is one of the most important pieces when celebrating the New Year in Japan. The first known accounts about this date back to the Heian Period (794-1185 CE).

During the New Year's festivities, many families in Japan make a very specific kind of mochi, called kagami-mochi. This type of mochi is decorated to be put on display, and if you do a little search online you’ll find pretty cute and colorfully decorated stacked mochi.

Mochi Flavours and Forms

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Gabby Phi

Mochi comes in various forms and flavours. The most commonly known is of course, daifuku mochi (the sweet kind with a filling). But did you know mochi can also be eaten plain or instead of rice? Meaning you can eat it with seaweed, vegetables, seafood, or meat. Mochi can also be cooked in a variety of ways such as by sautéing, grilling, baking, or leaving it in soup – talk about versatility

My personal favorite is eating mochi plain and coating it with peanuts. There are plenty of other ways to eat mochi, and you shouldn’t be limited to eating only one kind. 

How to Pronounce "Mochi"

sweet, egg, mochi, candy, dairy product, cream
Gabby Phi

Despite its extensive history, not many people living outside Japan know how to pronounce mochi the way most Japanese people do. After a tremendous amount of research and conversations with my Japanese friends, I’ve concluded that it’s pronounced “moh-chee."

But don’t fret too much, it’s understandable that not everyone’s able to pronounce mochi as is intended because of linguistic background differences. As long as you do your best, you'll be fine.

As you can see, mochi is more than just that sweet, sticky rice ball you enjoy at the end of an all-you-can eat sushi meal. Mochi is an important piece of Japanese culture and should be respected. It can also be eaten in various ways, so don't limit yourself to just dessert mochi.