“To me, making mochi is like a battle,” Mitsuo Nakatani, Japan’s fastest mochi master explains. There’s slapping, flipping, tossing, punching, and pounding. It’s like the dessert Olympics. Great Big Story visited Nakatani at Nakatanido, his 23-year-old mochi pounding shop in Nara, Japan, where visitors can watch him do what he does best.
Mochi is a Japanese rice cake made from mochigome, a type of short-grain, glutinous rice. Pounded very fast for about two minutes, the result is something soft, sweet, and chewy. It can be eaten plain, filled with red bean paste, wrapped around ice cream, stuffed with a strawberry, or rolled in roasted soybean flour (and much, much more).
While there are many forms of mochi pounding, Nakatani explains, traditionally it involves one person pounding with a large wooden mallet while the other mixes by hand (Nakatani’s average is 3 pounds per second). “The key to be good at mixing is about timing and trust in the guy that is pounding,” he says. Shouting helps to create a rhythm with one another. And, we’re assuming, from getting your hand obliterated. For an oddly satisfying food moment, watch the mesmerizing video above. Then watch it again.