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Happy New Year 2008!!

I feel age creeping upon me.

I can tell this not by wrinkles in my face or pain in my joints or spots of forgetfulness here and there (I’ve always had those!), but by what I was doing tonight at my mommy-in-law’s house. Baby Girl was having fun popping the little Pop Pop fireworks and I was sweeping up the rubbish with a broom and dust pan. I always remember hating that job during New Year’s time, sweeping up the rubbish after a long night of popping fireworks. And there I was, sweeping it up and not minding at all. GAH!!!!

It’s nearly 2 am on January 1st here in Hawaii and I’ve just finished washing the smoke out of my hair and vigorously brushing the mochi from my teeth. Since I know I have a lot of non-Hawaii blog readers, I thought I’d start the year off with some New Year’s mochi to show people what I do out here in the middle of the ocean to bring in a brand new batch of 366 days. (leap year!)

Since I’m Japanese, I grew up eating mochi for New Year’s. Some people eat it fresh while it’s still chewy, but I can only handle maybe 2 or 3 bites before I start feeling gross because really all you’re doing is eating gobs of plain rice with nothing on it but some mochiko flour. People buy big ones and stack them up and place a tangerine with a leaf on it on top. Mochi goes into ozoni, which is the traditional New Year’s soup. My aunty gave me a recipe with two very nice bowls for it, but I’ve never really made it myself. It was one of those things I never really appreciated until I was grown up. I used to pick at the kelp knots and eat the sides off, fish out the mochi to eat, then kinda sneak away from the table without eating the rest. I know, so lame. I fry my mochi.

Anyway, for some reason Mr. Pikko is so terribly proud to be Japanese, but doesn’t eat mochi or ozoni, which makes me nuts. So I don’t make soup, I just buy myself mochi cakes at Foodland and eat them until I feel like I’m getting too fat or until I spot mold on them (which happens shockingly fast). My mom and my grandma used to just wash the freaking mold off. Can you believe that?! One year my best friend came up to my grandma’s house and I was like omfg grandma, she’s never eaten New Year’s mochi!! So they make some and it smells great and all, until I bite into it and you can clearly taste the mold on it. I knew she could taste it too, but she ate it anyway. Such a loyal friend. Yes, she’s still alive, thank Bob.

Mochi is usually made by machine now, but I had the honor of attending a real mochi pounding back in intermediate school with my ex-boyfriend. That experience has stuck in my mind ever since. Here is a video of a traditional mochi pounding. You can see in the middle of the video that someone has to flip the mochi around in between hammer whacks. It takes great timing and occasionally people get their fingers squished.

Mochi

This is my batch of mochi this year, already some are eaten from yesterday. I like to eat three at a time for some reason, don’t ask me why. Maybe cause it fits in my little pan so nicely. I put a little bit of olive oil, turn the heat to medium, then put in three cakes.

Frying Mochi

I let one side cook until just slightly crispy, then I flip them over and cover the pan so that the heat puffs up the mochi.

Puffed Mochi

Usually I’d have let this brown a bit more, but I was in a hurry to eat and blog and go to bed, but these are my mochi all puffed up and ready to come out to be eaten by me!

Mochi with Shoyu

My mom and my brother love to eat their fried mochi suffocating in kinako or toasted soybean flour, but I find it a little too sweet and prefer to follow my dad’s way of using sugar and shoyu. I guess to someone who doesn’t know, it doesn’t look very yummy, but it is.

Watching the fireworks tonight made me realize that New Year’s in Hawaii is probably a very unique experience. I know on the mainland people are probably freezing their asses off and I have no idea whether people are even allowed to pop fireworks at their homes. When I was growing up aerials were still legal because I remember buying Roman Candles at the store. Then they got outlawed and really all that did was increase the amount of aerials you saw because people smuggled them in and suddenly it was THE thing to have. My family would go the rounds to all the family houses, Aunty K’s, Jichan’s house, then finally we’d end up at my Grandma’s house where my three Oahu cousins would be there lighting up all day and night with my brother.

I was the chicken shit cousin who reached her hand out super super far and ran away screaming as soon as I saw sparks and even then I usually only would brave the fountains. I refused to use a sparkler to light anything because I couldn’t tell when it was lit. Later on I’d eventually be brave enough to light little bottle rockets, but I’d still light them in a running stance. I was so panty that I was even scared popping those confetti champagne bottles cause I didn’t want it to blow up in my hand. My cousins would taunt me by snapping the Pop Pops between their fingers, telling me to do it cause it doesn’t hurt.

One of the biggest things years ago was the red firecrackers. We burned these to scare away evil spirits from the coming year. There’d be horrific piles of red rubbish all over the streets of Hilo and you could tell who were the big shots by the ones that had the biggest piles because they spent the most on their red crackers. People in Hilo have tall tall bamboo poles for stringing up the crackers and then for days afterwards, would bitch and moan about the red paper stuck in their driveways, long turned white because of the rain. But then they started requiring permits for each set of crackers and that just kinda killed it for a lot of people.

Now you can buy paperless red crackers without permits, which I don’t understand because I had thought the whole point of the permit was to get the smoke levels down. These red crackers generate retarded amounts of smoke and the paperless, permit-less ones don’t seem to generate any less in my opinion. Those were the days though. We’d watch from inside the house and though it would hurt your ears, it was a good kind of hurt. I’m still proud of the years that I listened to them pop without covering my ears. At midnight you could hear the whole town popping their red crackers. The “Duck” brand was “da bes’ one” cause almost all the rolls would be popped. I miss those years and am glad I can still remember them.

I’ve lived on Oahu for 10 years now and it has it’s own unique thing too. Tonight on the news we watched about how some guy in Palolo got his house raided by the cops and 2 TONS of aerials got confiscated. Haha! I think all those just got redistributed. *cough* As soon as it turns nighttime, if you’re high up you can see aerials popping everywhere. Most people on the mainland probably go to see a fireworks show put on by the town or something like that but here you can just sit in your house and watch the people on this island go freakin’ bananas. And when it gets 15 minutes to midnight it’s just insanity. From my mother in law’s house you can see literally thousands of aerials going off all across the West Oahu side. It just goes on and on and on. You can still hear the red crackers, but on Oahu it’s more the BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! of rockets and aerials. It’s truly amazing and I do think this is a great place to greet the new year.

It’s almost 3 am now and I really have to get to
bed. My kiddies actually made it to midnight so hopefully I get to sleep in tomorrow. HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!!!

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  • Miss M!

    Thanks for sharing that! It’s always interesting to hear how other people celebrate holidays, even if they’re still in the US. I live in Arizona, so fireworks have not been legal as far as I know due to how dry it is, but that doesn’t stop people from sneaking them in from Mexico!

  • Mer

    So, let me get this straight… mochi is a type of roll that you traditionally knead using a large wooden mallet? And it is a food eaten at New Years?

    Interesting. Thanks for sharing. :0) And, Happy New Year’s to you!

  • Pikko

    Hey Mer!

    It’s actually more a sticky rice cake, not a roll!

  • Anonymous

    Happy New Year, Pikko! I can attest to everything you said about the smoke and the aerials in Honolulu; I live near Papakolea, so I had my own neighborhood fireworks show. And I read your post while eating mochi!

    The best way to eat mochi I think is plain and grilled until it puffs up and is soft and chewy on the inside and a little bit crispy on the outside. Then you immediately drizzle a little bit of syrup over it. You have to burn your tongue and eat it right away cause if it goes cold, you’re left with a small brick!

  • Yvo

    Wow! I always eat mochi “daifuku” style, with red bean in it and never thought you could fry it. Can you fry it if you store buy that kind? So interesting…
    **I grew up eating it but not calling it mochi, I forget what we called it, cuz it was Chinese/Chinese style..

  • kundalini

    OMFG the aerials were sooo annoying this year – especially those flash bombs. Grrr. I kept wanting to yell out to those people to stop setting those off, until I realized that 1) they were too far away for them to hear me and 2) I could be turning into one of those “get off of my lawn” old fogies.

    I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but you can freeze mochi so it doesn’t just sit out too long and get all moldy. Yuck! My Mom and Grandma would just cut the moldy parts off if it did get moldy. Eeek, I think I could still taste it too though.

    Anyways, mochi freezes really well and they just go straight from the freezer into the frying pan in my house. I guess it takes a little longer to cook, but I don’t mind. 🙂

  • SicklyBug & Cassaendra

    Shinnen akemashite omedetou!

    Mmmm mochi with kinako. I wish I could get (or identify) mizuna here to make ozoni. When I was little, my mom would pick it along the roadside in Manoa.

    Sorry about the Sugar Bowl outcome! Ironically, I live 5-6 states north and graduated from UH, but didn’t go to the game. 5 of my relatives who live in Hawaii but graduated from mainland universities attended the game!

    Look forward to reading new bento preparations in the New Year!

    – Cassaendra

  • janfrederick

    The cops are pretty anal about fireworks here in southern california, but a few years back I brough back a trunkfull from Wyoming. We launched them for the Superbowl here in San Diego. I almost got arrested, but it was sure fun. And the 8 foot string of firecrackers was insane.

    But I wish I could see the hood show in Hawaii. You see aerials here, but not as many as you described. Probably a good thing though given the wildfire problems we have.

  • Sorina

    Wow that does look beautiful…I think I will start cooking this now.

  • pacatrue

    Hi, I discovered your blog researching mochi on Google. I recently sponsored a little blogger contest where I need to ship small prizes from Oahu to the Mainland. Since I’ve seen little packages of mochi with azuki and green tea and blueberry fillings and such just sitting around Longs, I thought that might be the perfect thing to make and ship. Then I found a nice looking recipe for butter mochi and picked up the ingredients at Foodland tonight. But now the more I read, the more convinced I am that I can’t ship butter mochi two days in a priority mail package. Dang it! Do you have any thoughts?

    Looks like it’s mac nuts and kona coffee all over again…. I gotta find a new present for Mainland friends.

  • souvenir kattunge

    Thanks for sharing! I did not know that it’s tradition for Japanese people to eat mochi on new years. It’s interesting because Chinese people eat things like tangyuen and nian gao around new years and both are made with glutinous rice flour.

  • progressivegrannie

    Very interesting! Here in Texas they also pop fireworks. I am from Nebraska so it was new to me. Of course we are usually freezing our asses off in Nebraska on NY and don’t go outside, unless we have had too many Tom & Jerry’s (alcohol and eggs) which makes you very warm.
    We can still shoot off aerials in Texas (outside city limits), but they scare me anyway.