Thursday, 27 June 2013

Chocolate Mochi: Food from Fiction - Jiro Dreams of Sushi

For this month's Food 'n' Flix blogging challenge, host Camilla of Culinary Adventures with Camilla has chosen the Japanese film Jiro Dreams of Sushi; the idea is to watch the film, cook something inspired by the film and blog about it!

The film, made quite recently in 2011, is a documentary and tells the story of Jiro Ono, the 85-year old head chef at Sukiyabashi Jiro, a sushi restaurant in Tokyo that has three Michelin stars. Jiro's oldest son works with him at the restaurant, while his youngest son runs the sister restaurant. The film covers everything from their relationships, to the day-to-day working of a sushi restaurant (watching the scenes at the fish market is especially interesting), and Jiro's constant striving for perfection in the food he serves his customers.

Jiro works hard, is a perfectionist and says he doesn't like holidays; he also doesn't want to relinquish control of his restaurant to his son. He eats, lives and breaths sushi - and dreams of it. He says in the film: "I would make sushi in my dreams, I would jump out of bed with ideas." His restaurant may only seat 10 and have the toilets outside, but it has won three Michelin stars. Jiro's ethos is that every meal has to be better than the last one, and he takes pride in judging what his customers want. He even memorises seating arrangements and sends out sushi from the kitchen of different sizes - he explains that the women want smaller portions. I actually found that a little sexist, but his customers in that scene seemed to agree!

Chocolate Mochi - a Japanese dessert often served after sushi

I wasn't expecting to like this as I'm not a fan of documentaries and I thought having to read the Japanese subtitles would be a pain (the only Japanese I ever learnt was a song about a goat). But it's so much more than a documentary - the film is almost poetic, combining classical music with slow motion shots at times and I was so drawn in, I barely noticed I was reading susbtitles. I learnt a lot as well - I assumed the rice that forms the basis of many types of sushi was just standard rice, but I had no idea how much effort goes into preparing and cooking it. There is also an 'ebb and flow' to a good sushi menu in terms of the order of flavours, which was interesting. I also didn't know that sushi chefs roll around the fish in their hands to shape it or indeed that there were so many different types of sushi or ways it could be prepared.

So when I started thinking about what I could make for Food 'n' Flix, I knew immediately I didn't want to try making sushi - it's a lot harder than it looks and isn't just a case of slicing up some raw fish! I could have a go - I have seen some Groupon offers for sushi-making lessons recently and am quite keen, but have no time before the deadline of this blogging challenge. But I also felt that having watched this film, any sushi I tried to make would be an affront to Jiro! Luckily there was one other dish that immediately sprang to mind. When I went to Yo Sushi a little while ago I had a dessert called a chocolate mochi, which was a ball made of rice flour and filled with chocolate. It was delicious and so I have tried to recreate this! I found a recipe on the internet and adapted it to add cocoa powder. 

To make about half a dozen, you need:

125g plain chocolate
1 tbsp butter
1/4 cup double cream
3/4 cup glutinous rice flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/4 cup caster sugar
2/3 cup water

Heat the double cream in a small pan and take off the heat before it comes to the boil. Chop the chocolate and butter and stir into the cream; keep stirring until it melts and you have a smooth sauce.

Place in the fridge for up to an hour until it has set. If it sets too hard, just allow it to come up to room temperature before you use it.

Shape into balls by rolling small amounts of the chocolate ganache between your palms. Mine had softened a little too much so I ended up making rather misshaped chunks!

I had to make a special trip to Chinatown to find glutinous rice flour, as none of my local supermarkets stocked it. Luckily I found it in the first Chinese supermarket I went to and it wasn't very expensive.

Mix 3/4 cup rice flour with 1/4 cup cocoa powder in a large glass or pyrex bowl.

Add the caster sugar and water and mix with a rubber spatula until you have a smooth batter.

Cover with cling film and microwave on high for two minutes. Uncover, stir, and recover and microwave on high for another two minutes.

You'll end up with a sticky ball of dough.

The recipe I used said to lightly dust a surface with more rice flour and carefully roll out the dough while it is still hot and cut into equal segments for each mochi piece. But I found the dough was too sticky and too difficult to handle when it was hot so I left it to cool - but this meant it was quite hard to roll out. I ended up cutting it into pieces and stretching them as much as I could.

Place one of your chocolate truffles in the centre of a small piece of rolled-out dough and shape around the truffle so you have a ball (the dough will stick to itself to seal the ball). And that's it - these are eaten cold,  or rather at room temperature.

I found these fairly similar to what I'd had at Yo Sushi in taste though they didn't look quite as good! The sticky rice dough is something of an aquired taste I would say; I found it a bit strange but it was quite nice, and the combination of the chocolate dough and the truffle in the middle is lovely.

I'm sending this to Food n'n Flix and am looking forward to seeing the roundup on Camilla's blog. And if anyone has any ideas how I can use up the rest of the bag of glutinous rice flour, please let me know!


  1. I have never made mochi! We love it...I'll definitely give it a whirl. Thanks for joining me for Food'N'Flix.

  2. Okay, mochi is one of those things that I've always wanted to try making at home, but haven't ventured there, yet! I am a fan of glutinous rice, so I know I'd enjoy these - they sound so tasty!

  3. What a great inspired recipe! I will have to try some. Great review as well.

  4. Great inspiration! I often eat mochi as it is popular and plentiful here in Hawaii, but I have never tried to make it myself. One of my favorite cafes does a mochi brownie square that this reminds me of!

    I had to laugh at your comment on the smaller portions for women. I laughed at that a little too, but we have a restaurant here run by the *Sushi Nazi* where you sit and he serves you his creations until you tell him to stop. If you make it through his planned menu, you can then (and only then) order what you liked best from him and he'll make it for you. When I go with my guy friends, they can often make it around but I never seem to be quite able to as fabulous as it is and as much as I *starve* myself before going. So maybe Jiro is right about the appetites. ;-)

  5. Hi I just made a variation on your recipe and the mochi dough works well with two minutes in the microwave, then stir, then one more minute. It remains workable then.
    Thanks for the recipe!


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