Kagami mochi, an annual treat, is enjoyed during the festive season of Kagami Biraki. Nowadays, this mochi variety can be found in prepacked packages all over Japan.
However, you can make them fresh at home in under 15 minutes! Read on to learn our trusted home recipe on how to make your own Japanese rice cake.
What is Kagami mochi?
This Japanese rice cake dish is a traditional food item used to celebrate New Year in Japan. Consisting of two layers of round rice cakes topped with a small mandarin, this custom has been practised since the Heian era.
This tradition is quite unique. It is one that is still heavily celebrated today, even if lifestyles have differed greatly since.
Kagami mochi means mirror rice cake where ‘kagami’ means ‘mirror’ and ‘mochi’ means ‘rice cake’. However, there is a deeper significance to why the word ‘mirror’ is used in its naming.
It is often said that the stacked rice cakes resemble a bronze mirror. The household item was considered a treasure in ancient Japan. Nowadays, most stores would sell individually packed kagami mochi. They would come along with a decorated ‘sanpō’ (三宝, decorated stand), ready to be put on display.
Along with a mandarin, the traditional cake is most often decorated with colourful paper, ferns, and dried kelp.
The mandarin, 'dai-dai', is used to give hope and prosperity to future descendants. Meanwhile, kelp and konbu sound like the Japanese word, ‘yorokobu’. It means 'being happy' and is used as a lucky charm.
However, decorations and charms do vary depending on families and regions.
Where to place it?
The Japanese rice cake is usually placed in the kitchen, bedroom, or household altar. The Japanese believed that placing kagami mochi in many locations in the house would increase luck.
Most Japanese households would start to display the traditional cake a day after Christmas between the 26th until the 28th. However, they do not display them on the 29th or 31st as they are unlucky numbers. The Japanese recommend eating it only on the day of Kagami Biraki. They will then cook it according to their liking.
Kagami Biraki is a tradition translated as ‘opening the mirror’. The Japanese celebrate it as an offering to their gods and Hotokesama (buddha). It traditionally falls on the 11th day of the new year, a good luck number in Japan. This is the day when the kagami mochi can be broken and eaten. However, eating the rice cake earlier can anger the Kamisama, which refers to God in Japan.
Traditional Japanese believe that Kamisama’s power resides in the rice cake. Therefore, one should not break into it with a knife. Instead, they should use a wooden hammer or break it with their bare hands.
Moreover, they recommend eating the traditional snack on Kagami Biraki. Old folks say that this practice will prevent any sicknesses or accidents to come upon you that year.
As kagami mochi is made up of only glutinous rice flour, sugar, and water, there is not much taste to the snack itself. That is why most would cook their rice cakes into ozoni, oshiruko, or simply grill and dip into soy sauce.
The rice cake here is very similar to the globally popular Japanese snack called daifuku. Usually, the daifuku has an adzuki red bean filling making a red bean daifuku.
This kagami mochi recipe contains about 250 calories per serving. Our recipe makes a total of 8 servings per batch, resulting in 2000 calories for 8 servings.
Ways to enjoy
Since the traditional mirror rice cake by itself is quite bland, there are a few ways this treat is enjoyed during Kagami Biraki;
- Ozoni: A Japanese New Year mochi soup made primarily of komatsuna, yuzu, and mitsuba.
- Oshiruko: A red bean soup made primarily of red bean paste, water, and toasted kagami mochi.
The process of making Japanese mochi has simplified through the years. Now, homemade rice cake can be enjoyed from the comfort of your own kitchen!
However, there are a few steps to look out for in order to make it perfectly;
- Stirring is key! Make sure there are no lumps in your glutinous rice mixture before cooking it. Lumps in the batter may disrupt the cooking process. This may result in an all too sticky cake. Stirring in between the cooking process is important. Leaving your mixture unstirred can cause the edges to harden, hence, wasting a good amount of mochi.
- Glutinous and regular rice flours are not the same! These flours result in very different consistencies when cooked. Though they may seem similar, they should not be used interchangeably. We do not recommend using the regular version with this recipe. Please make sure you have glutinous rice flour on hand before starting this recipe!
Kagami Mochi Recipe, Easy Microwave Method
- 1½ cups glutinous rice flour
- 1 cup white sugar
- 1½ cups water
- 2 drops distilled white vinegar
- ½ cup potato starch for dusting
- In a microwave-safe, medium-sized bowl, combine glutinous rice flour, sugar, and water. Mix until well combined. It should resemble the texture of cake batter.
- Add the two drops of white vinegar into your kagami mochi mixture to soften.
- Loosely cover the bowl with saran wrap. With a fork, poke through the plastic to allow airflow.
- Microwave on high for a total of 8-10 minutes, but in 2-minute increments. Make sure to fold your sticky batter after every increment.
- Remove your bowl from the microwave and let it sit until cool enough to touch.
- On a flat surface, lay out a piece of parchment paper and dust heavily with potato starch.
- Spoon out your desired size of batter onto the surface and evenly coat it with potato starch. The cooked batter should no longer be as sticky and is easy to handle with your hands. Repeat with the rest of the mixture.
- If you do not have potato starch on hand, corn starch or tapioca starch would do just fine.
- It is advisable to not let the mochi cook in the microwave for the whole of 8-10 minutes. By folding the batter every 2 minutes, it prevents the edges from hardening.
- The size of the kagami mochi depends on how big you would like them to be served. Typically, two pieces of rice cakes are stacked on top of one another. The bottom piece has a bigger circumference than the top one.
Calories have been calculated using an online calculator. Nutritional information offered on Honest Food Talks is for general information purposes and are only rough estimations.
Here’s an alternative recipe as presented by Jojo Seufert on Youtube. In the video recipe, she prepares the rice cake to be coated with coconut flakes at the end. However, the initial process of cooking it in the microwave is similar.
How did your kagami mochi turn out? Share with us your crafted Japanese rice cake by tagging us on Instagram @honestfoodtalks! We would love to see how yours turned out.
Looking for another Japanese dessert to make at home? Let us introduce you to our Raindrop Cake recipe! It is a low-calorie traditional snack hailing from Japan!