Anyone who knows me will be well aware of my slight obsession with Shikamaro-kun, the oh-so-cute yuru-chara (mascot) of the Nara City Tourist Association. As such, any sort of chocolatey snack with his face on it was a sure sell and I left Nara with a collection of Shikamaro-kun mochi sweets to try.
Mochi is a glutinous rice cake that is formed into a little ball. You may be familiar with yukimi daifuku (the ice-cream filled mochi made popular but the Lotte brand) but you can also get non-frozen mochi with a variety of fillings such as custard, red bean paste, chocolate, green tea and many more. Savoury or plain mochi are sometimes used in soup.
There were a couple of flavours to choose from – I opted for a box of the plain chocolate mochi balls (with the cute cartoon on the packet indicating that these little balls of yum are actually deer stools…. how charming) and the Shikamaro-kun branded chocolate and banana flavour (my favourite.)
The mochi is small, squidgy and chewy. Inside they have a sweet flavoured paste and the outside is coated with a light chocolate powder (which gets everywhere – take care not to sneeze near an open box of these or you’ll end up in the middle of a chocolate snow storm.)
A box contains 10 pieces which are just about right to be shared between two people. If you’re sharing with a bigger group, I recommend getting a few boxes of different flavours for everyone to try. If you’re giving mochi to young kids, I recommend cutting it into smaller pieces as they are quite chewy and a whole piece could get stuck in their throat.
For foreigners, I find that mochi is one of those Marmite types of things – you either love it or hate it. As for me, I love mochi in all forms, and was all the more tempted by this delicious box of sweets due to the cute character on the front – a clever piece of advertising for a sucker like me! If you are visiting Nara and trying to think of a unique gift to send back home, a box of sweet mochi is sure to go down as an unusual snack – whether or not the recipients are as sold on it as I am, remains to be seen!