A few weeks ago, my parents were in town and we went to Shuei-Do, a shop in San Jose Japantown that sells mochi and manju.
Mochi is a rice cake made with sweet rice that’s been pounded into this sticky, slightly chewy texture. It can be a plain dumpling (my grandma adds it to soup for New Year’s) or it can be filled with a variety of things like sweet red bean paste (azuki or adzuki), sweet white bean paste, and even peanut butter or fresh strawberries.
My family always has a mochi-making session before New Year’s so Grandma has mochi for the traditional mochi soup.
Update: I found this video I’d made years ago of my grandma and my mom making mochi for New Year’s!
Even though my grandma usually only ever made mochi in late December, there are some families who make sweet mochi (for snacks or desserts) throughout the year just like Shuei-Do and other mochi shops. So in a scene in A Dangerous Stage where Tessa is visiting Mrs. Akaogi, I have her making mochi.
Mrs. Akaogi is making mochi filled with sweet red bean paste, or azuki beans. (It’s also spelled adzuki beans but I’ve only ever seen it spelled azuki in Hawaii, which is an interesting cultural note that has no doubt added infinite value to your life. ;) So Mrs. Akaogi’s mochi balls would probably look similar to the one in the top left in the picture. That mochi actually has white bean paste rather than red bean paste--a mochi filled with red bean paste would look a little darker.
Captain Caffeine does not care for mochi—the sticky texture isn’t his favorite—but I grew up on this stuff and love it! It kind of fills the same role for Japanese children as chocolate chip cookies do for American children—it’s a sweet treat. However, mochi is a bit of a pain to make and most people don’t make it that often.
So now when you read that scene in A Dangerous Stage, you’ll know exactly what Tessa is raving about!
In A Dangerous Stage, the second book in Camy Tang's Protection for Hire series, Tessa gets caught up in the web of lies surrounding a shady singing competition. Hired by one of the contestants, she works with Charles Britton---the lawyer who sent her to prison---to discover the dark figures manipulating the contest from behind the scenes.
Tessa's abilities will be tested like never before as she's forced to balance the safety of her client's family and her deepening relationship with Charles. In the midst of the chaos, she holds on to her faith to keep her safe and bring down the shadowy organization.