During the New Year Holiday, we eat a lot of mochi in Japan. Traditionally it's made by steaming glutinous short-grain rice (mochi rice) and then pounding it with hammers in a giant wooden mortar until it forms a smooth elastic mass. Depending on the region of Japan, mochi can be shaped into round pucks or pressed into trays before being cut into rectangles. This type of mochi stays soft and chewy for about a day, but the rice's starches soon retrograde, and it turns into a hard waxy block.
To soften the mochi again, it can be heated in soup (such as in Ozoni), microwaved until puffy, or my preferred method is to toast it in a toaster oven. This softens the mochi to its original state while rendering the edges crisp and nutty.
Growing up, I loved eating toasted mochi as a snack, seasoned with butter and soy sauce, and then wrapped in nori like onigiri. This year, I decided to slap some melty cheese on top of the mochi and came up with this insanely pleasurable snack that I'm calling Crispy Cheese Mochi.
When you toast it, the cheese melds with the mochi, and you get this marvelous juxtaposition of the sweet and chewy mochi with the layer of melted cheese on top. The best part is the cheese that melts down onto the pan; it forms this crispy skirt of umami that wraps around, giving it texture and loads of flavor.
A sheet of nori goes on top to keep it from sticking, and then I flip it over, so the crispy side is on top. Then, depending on how salty the cheese is, you can give it a slight drizzle of soy sauce for a little more flavor.
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