Japanese Food Weekend Part 1: Mochi
Saw this at the asian grocery and couldn't resist! This is mochi with bean paste, covered in black sesame seeds and it is heavenly!
Mochi is a main part of the traditional Japanese sweets called "wagashi". These are "strange" to the western palate, but utterly delicious once you get accustomed to sticky, not-so-sweet sweets.
Technically, mochi can refer to the pounded-glutinous rice paste that usually surrounds Japanese sweets. Mochi is sticky when raw, with a nice chew to it. You can also fry it and it puffs up (very good with sugar and cinnamon!). I also am a fan of mochi in okonomiyaki, the Japanese cabbage-pancake.
Usually Japanese sweets are stuffed with sweet bean paste made from adzuki beans. Again, an acquired taste, but healthy, and bonds well with the sticky mochi.
In Japan, you can buy treats like this nearly everywhere. Housewives pick some up from the Department store for snacks to serve with tea. Every season (or even every 2 weeks), the mochi sellers have a new seasonal (or "shun") ingredient, so sometimes you see mochi wrapped in leaves, or flavored with cherry blossoms, or flecked with some green vegetable whose name I cannot remember.