Although all Japanese rice is "sticky," the regular food rice is not glutinous rice (as is often wrongly stated), but non-glutinous, regular rice (uruchimai). For those for whom ordinary stickiness is not enough, there exists, however, a glutinous variant of the regular rice called mochigome (also called mochimai). Mochigome has a slightly sweet flavour and a high starch content, which makes it stickier than normal rice. Traditionally, this type of rice was considered as more desirable - perhaps because it seems to contain in concentrated form the "power of rice." In fact, yields of mochigome are low and a lot of it is needed to make mochi, so this was truly a luxury food only eaten on festival days as the New Year.
Mochigome is not cooked in a pot, but steamed in a steamer (seiro). The common steamers in Japan today are made of metal and consist of a square pot over which fit one or more tiers with perforated bottoms; a cover keeps the steam inside. A traditional bamboo steamer can of course also be used and is in fact better, as the wooden hoop and domed lid are good insulators. You can also improvise a steamer by putting a sieve with mesh cloth in it on top of a pan (the sieve should not touch the water) and then cover that with a large enough lid.
Steaming is done at high heat for about 20 minutes. Then sprinkle the rice a few times with a small amount of uchimizu (a mix of sake and water) or salt water to puff it up. Continue steaming at high heat for another 15-20 minutes. Be sure that the water quantity in the pot is sufficient.
Steamed mochigome is used for the following dishes and products:
- Sekihan, red rice, where azuki beans are used to color the mochigome. Sekihan is the fixed type of rice for weddings and other celebrations as red is the color of good luck.
- Okowa or kowameshi, steamed glutinous rice mixed with other ingredients as salmon or chestnuts, often sold in depachika. Please note that sekihan can also be called okowa.
- Mochi, rice cakes, obtained by pounding glutinous rice. Mochi also have a celebratory significance.
- Certain types of okashi, traditional Japanese sweets, for example ohagi or sakura-mochi.
- Certain types of senbei or rice crackers, for example arare.