Gohei-mochi is a typical local snack for people in the northern areas of Nagano, Gifu, and the Mikawa area of Aichi prefectures. Traditionally Gohei-mochi is dedicated to the gods at the shrines to pray for a good harvest in the spring and fall seasons. It looks like sacred white zig zag strips of paper, so the local people named this “Gohei mochi” and started selling it by this name. “Gohei” refers to the zig zag strips of papers that hang from a rope across the entrance to a Shinto shrine. Mochi is what they call sticky rice, which is rice that was pounded to be soft.
There is a rumor says that a person who was named Gohei, invented this by cooking the pounded rice, then coated it with miso sauce, and then grilled it.
Rice was a most valued food at that time and people believed that rice brings luck to family members, so traditionally it was cooked for exceptional hospitality for customers.
It also exploded in popularity because it was introduced through a famous drama series on TV.
Gohei-mochi has the roasted miso flavor and also a sweet salty sauce with a nutty flavor.
This sauce is amazing and can also be used for simple dishes. Usually local people have it with tofu, grilled or steamed vegetables, Japanese Konnyaku, and kids especially love it with Onigiri (rice balls)
Actually, it is supposed to be cooked at home
Gohei-Mochi can also come in different shapes, depending on the area people live. Each family has a different combination of ingredients used for sauce. They grind peanuts, walnuts and sesame with a wooden pestle, or people put all the ingredients into a bag and mash it into tiny pieces and then add sugar and soy sauce or miso to it.
They then use freshly cooked rice and a wooden pestle to pound the rice until only a few grains of rice can be seen. This gets it to the perfect consistency. The rice will be so sticky, that you will need to have water close by to dip the wooden pestle to keep it wet so that you stop it from sticking to it.
Then when you have the rice in a perfect state, you need to wet your hands and take the rice to form a ball. Then it needs to be flattened out and strongly wrapped around a chopstick, or a bamboo stick. It can be made into a ball or an oval shape. Then it needs to dry out for about 20 minutes, and then grilled for five minutes with a toaster or on a Shichirin grill, until it gets a little burned on both sides.
Then it needs to be dipped into an original sauce and then grilled for another 5 minutes on both sides again. This is easy to cook at home too.
Because of the drama it was introduced on, many place sell Gohei-mochi and it is easy to find and buy.
Generally, we can have this at parking service areas on the roads when we are traveling. There are many road stations on roads and highways or at the food courts of super markets in Gifu prefecture. We can also buy this at Kissaten or specialty shops and food tents.
These days, it is popular to find it through online shopping and pre-packaged food products. There are the bottles of Gohei-mochi sauce for sale too, so please try it on your favorite foods.