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Monday, March 5, 2012

Butter Mochi: Hapa Food

I love butter mochi, because not only is it delicious, but its a great example of Hapa culture. Butter mochi takes mochiko, sweet rice flour normally used for making traditional wagashi, and turning it into something uniquely hapa Hawaiian. Drawing from Japanese ingredients and American ingenuity, Butter Mochi was born! People say it is pretty close to Bibingka, a rice cake from the Philippines that is also made with rice flour. The glutinous rice flour makes the bread plump and chewy, as opposed to a cake made from wheat flour that can be dry.

Now, haters will love to point out that "butter mochi isn't real mochi!" Not only is that statement pretty dumb, because butter mochi was never trying to fool someone into thinking it was wagashi, but it also pretty common. I really hate when people are such snobs. Like hating on the California roll, stating that "true Japanese food lovers would never sink that low" to eat something created in America. People like things in black and white, and mixing it up like with the California Roll and Butter Mochi is a threat. I would draw a parallel to how people tend to categorize multiracial people. Tiger Woods and Barack Obama are "black" even though they are multiracial. Tiger Woods is the "first black golfer to win a majors" when in reality he's mostly Asian AKA Hapa.

On the record, I LOVE California rolls, especially when the avocado is just right, and when rolled in flying fish roe. And more and more are jumping on this bandwagon, from umami burgers to korean tacos. *Miss Mochi isn't real Japanese, she's hapa, and she never pretended to be anything else. She's like butter mochi and California rolls!

Butter Mochi

1 stick of butter, melted and cooled (1/2 cup) or margarine
1 lbs box of mochiko (3 cups)
1 12-13oz can of coconut milk
3 cups sugar*
1/2 tbs vanilla extract
1 tbs baking powder
5 eggs

Mix all the ingredients together and pour into 9x13 inch pan sprayed with PAM. Bake for 1hr at 375 degrees F or until toothpick comes out clean. Cut into squares after letting it cool slightly.

You can also add in shredded coconut to the batter or put on top. The picture above has a cup of shredded coconut added to the batter, with more on top. I recommend putting the coconut on after about 20 minutes of cooking so that it won't sink too much into the batter, but it also will still stick.

I like my butter mochi warm. There are variations of the recipe that include milk, but I like the fact that my version is wheat, gluten, and dairy free by using margarine.

*If you like butter mochi a little more subtly sweet, you can reduce the sugar accordingly depending on your personal taste. I often reduce the sugar down to 1.5 cups, which makes it much less sweet. This iteration of butter mochi is definitely geared to an American palate that expects cake to be rather sweet, so play around with the amount of sugar!


  1. Miss Mochi,

    Just an FYI, the California Roll was actually created by a chef (from Okinawa, Japan) when he was working in NYC. So let the snobs turn their noses up at this Japanese creation from someone that is Japanese.

    1. Actually, every historical sushi article seems to be murky about the exact inventor of the California roll (similar to the fortune cookie) but most point to Los Angeles as the creation point, not New York. I would be curious to see documentation to suggest that it was created on the East Coast!

      And just because the California Roll was made by a Japanese person does not make it traditionally Japanese. It is a Japanese American food, containing ingredients not found in Japan at the time. Some people are obsessed with "authentic" cuisine, which was my point: that while butter mochi and the california roll are not authentic or traditional Japanese foods, they are not to be dismissed on those grounds alone. After all, the idea of "authentic" cuisine is a silly one, where foods are constantly being adapted and changed.

      Here's some articles regarding the origin of the CA roll:

    2. Don't forget the version of a Japanese chef from California created the dish in Canada!!

  2. "On the record, I LOVE California rolls, especially when the avocado is just right, and when rolled in flying fish roe" ...

    I LOVE california rolls, especially the ones at Masa and Joyce out in Kaneohe - but never had them rolled in Flying fish roe, which I also love - absolutely HAVE to try that !

    Alos, great site, Im a mochi addict, and make butter mochi all the time for my daughter ( a SERIOUS butter mochi addict lol), but all te recipes I had used dairy, and we are both lactose intolerant, her at a alrger level, me somewhat less ( due to being on chemotherapy) we would just gorge on a whole 9x13" pan and suffer later lol, sooo worth it though :D

    Gonna try out your version, thanks for making it dairy free <3