Mochi Pounding: A New Year’s Celebration!

28 December 2005 - 6:30pm

As many as five generations of this Hanapepe Valley family join in making mochi

Hanapepe Valley New Year Tradition
by Linda Pascatore 28 December 2005

My husband and I were recently invited to a Mochi Pounding gathering at the home of our neighbors, Tom and Jerry Yamamoto. The invitation came from our dear friend, Uncle Louis Almodova Jr, the local Ambassador of Aloha, and the subject of many previous articles (see below).

The Japanese traditionally make Mochi for New Years. Eating mochi, which is pounded sweet rice, is supposed to bring good luck for the coming New Year. Our neighbors had a big gathering of family and friends, and everyone participated in making the mochi in the traditional way.

The mochi rice is cooked over a mesquite wood fire outdoors. On the fire sits a metal base for big pan of water to steam the rice. The sweet mochi rice is put in steamers which are nested one on top of the other over the water. The Yamamotos have antique redwood steamers that are handmade and joined with wooden pegs.

Once the rice is steamed, it is put into an old stone bowl for pounding. The Yamamotos’ bowl had cracked and has been repaired by building a concrete reinforced housing around it. The pounding of the mochi is done with wooden mallets made of guava or hau wood. Two men alternate in pounding, and it is a sight. My husband got a little carried away and split a mallet on the side of the stone bowl, but the guys were ready to repair it with another mallet head.

Besides the men, all the young boys were called on to take a turn pounding. Gerry said that the real purpose of the gathering is to bring the family together, and that she was so pleased to see the younger folks involved in learning and carrying on the tradition. There were five generations of the family represented at the gathering.

After the rice was pounded, it was time for the girls to take a turn. The batch of rice was divided into small portions on a long table dusted with cornstarch. The women and girls lined the table, and kneaded and patted the mochi into little round cakes. Some are filled with tasty red azuki beans. Some of the rice was cooked with mint which is grown specially for the purpose of flavoring some of the mochi and giving it a light green coloring. In modern times, some color the mochi with food coloring, but the Yamamotos use only the natural, traditional methods.

Of course, all the workers stopped for a break and a feast of “broke da mouf” local food. Tom had deep fried some ono octopus and pork. There was guardini rice and pot patelles, and I had to get the recipe for a delicious coconut milk spinach chicken casserole that Geri’s daughter Jeannie cooked.

We were so thankful to be included in this wonderful seasonal event. Everyone took home some wonderfully flavored mochi to share with their families for a lucky New Year!

See also:
Island Breath: Uncle Louis - The Caretaker of Salt Pond
Island Breath: Uncle Louis remembers the Eleele School Song
Island Breath: Unlce Louie Tales - The Rumba Kings
Island Breath; Uncle Louie Tells the Menehune Fishpond story
Island Breath: Uncle Louis tells the Two Dragons of Lawai story
Island Breath: Hanapepe Mochi Pounding

Island Breath: Uncle Louis Tales - Last Football game & the D7 Bulldozer
Island Breath: Uncle Louis - The mayor of Salt Pond

Ea O Ka Aina: Salt Dedication to Uncle Louis


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