Mochi, Japan's favorite gelatinous rice cake, is created when sticky rice is pounded into a paste and molded into little gooey balls. Though it may not sound appetizing on paper, the sweet sticky dough is a key ingredient in many Japanese desserts. While its origins are unknown, the first mention of mochi was in 794 AD when it was served as a ceremonial dish during New Year's celebrations. At this point in time, only emperors were permitted to eat mochi, as it was associated with good fortune. Following this period, mochi became a favorite of samurai and farmers during the winter time, as it's easy to prepare and has a high caloric content.
Traditional mochi is usually stuffed with a sweetened red bean paste, but in the early 1990s, a brave woman by the name of Frances Hashimoto decided to ditch the old recipe and fill her mochi with ice cream, inventing a brand new type of dessert. In 1993, Hashimoto's company Mikawaya launched the first line of ice cream-filled mochi in the United States, and the rest is history. Nowadays, Mikawaya isn't the only company making ice cream-stuffed mochi, so we're listing off a few of our favorites.
My/Mo Mochi Ice Cream (Editor's Choice)
Founded in L.A., My/Mo Mochi Ice Cream has perfected the art of convenient snacking. It comes in eight flavors and has an extremely wide distribution considering how niche it is. Each package comes with six adorable, snowball-shaped blobs, and the quality of the ice cream really stands out. As one might expect, some mochi companies rely solely on novelty, but My/Mo Mochi Ice Cream doesn't just put a high premium on the outside of their desserts; they care about the creamy filling as well. On top of all this, My/Mo Mochi Ice Cream offers both dairy-free and vegan options on their most popular flavors.
The inventors of ice cream mochi will always hold a special place in our hearts. Founded in 1910, Mikawaya is first and foremost a Japanese pastry and dessert company with a fantastic mochi dough recipe that's a century old. This gives them a clear edge when it comes to making traditional-style mochi. They also boast a wide variety of strange ice cream flavors, from red bean to plum wine. If you're looking to completely shake up your ice cream experience, Mikawaya is the way to go.
This may be a bit surprising, but Trader Joe's brand mochi ice cream is actually very good. It doesn't have the high quality ingredients of My/Mo or the history of Mikawaya, but in a pinch, it'll do. They have a pumpkin pie flavor, and, no hyperbole, it's magical. The good thing about Trader Joe's mochi is that you know exactly where to find it.
Mr. Mochi is definitely the mochi of choice for healthy eaters, as their products are gluten free, rBGH free, and individually wrapped. They definitely get the award for coolest-looking packaging. Mr. Mochi is a bit pricier than its competition, and while it does have a delicious, organic taste; it's tough to justify spending $50 for four packages. That said, if money is no object and you really want the fully organic option, these guys make it worth it.
Maeda-en is a company that specializes in various natural green tea products, and they're relatively new to the mochi ice cream game. That said, because of their obsession with providing the best green tea around, Maeda-en has perfected green tea ice cream-stuffed mochi. Seriously, it's as if this company's sole goal is to make it impossible for their competitors to market one specific flavor. As of right now, they only have distribution in specific Asian grocery stores, usually located in major cities. That said, with success comes expansion, and there's no reason to assume they won't continue to grow.
Now the only foreseeable issue with store-bought mochi ice cream, is that freezers at home are usually a bit too cold for mochi products. It's best to let your treat thaw for about 60 seconds before you bite into it, so you get that perfect chewy consistency. If you're like me and you eat your brownies out of the tray while they're still hot and gooey, there's no harm in biting into semi-hard mochi. It's still delicious. Whoever said patience is a virtue was lying. Just let the mochi defrost in your mouth!