Mochikvah, a home-based mochi business in Tel Aviv, sells vegan and gluten-free mochi. Mochikvah, a home-based mochi business in Tel Aviv, sells vegan and gluten-free mochi. Mochikvah, a home-based mochi business in Tel Aviv, sells vegan and gluten-free mochi. (Photo: Courtesy of Sara Hope)

Meet mochi, the snackable ice cream treat of your dreams

It's a Japanese dessert that's taken the world by storm: Bite-sized ice cream wrapped in a sweet, doughy exterior.

What happens when you roll ice cream into a bite-sized ball and encase it in a sticky sweet rice dough?

You get mochi, that's what.

If you're like us, you're fairly new to these sweet treats, but they've been around quite a long time in their native Japan. The mochi itself is what actually encases the ice cream: a rice cake that's been pounded down to paste and molded into the desired shape. In its traditional form, mochi can be traced back centuries in Japan as a symbol of nobility. It's still eaten commonly around the Japanese new year to usher in good fortune.

And now, it turns out the rest of the world had the good fortune to be introduced to this stuff in recent years. It's not entirely certain who came up with the idea of taking the mochi and wrapping it around an ice cream filling, but it's here, presumably, for the foreseeable future. Stateside, you can find it in the freezer section of several stores, including Costco (on a seasonal basis) and Whole Foods. On a global level, both online and brick-and-mortar shops are creating their own versions of the trendy treat. A gluten-free, vegan shop in Tel Aviv, Israel, for instance, opened last year to appeal to that city's prevalence of vegans and vegetarians. It's called Mochikva, and it's the brainchild of Sara Hope, who started an in-home mochi business after moving to Israel in 2015.

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Hand-made mochi is waiting for you 🤗💕

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Hope's mochi creations include sesame coconut, matcha red bean, lychee rose and mango ginger, as well as traditional vanilla. The ice cream recipe swaps dairy products with almond milk and coconut cream, and the red bean paste swaps honey for sugar.

In an interview from her home in Tel Aviv, Hope told From The Grapevine that she started selling mochi after overhearing nuggets of curiosity about the treat in Israel. "I'm from California, so I am used to it there, but I really missed it when I moved here," she said. "I saw the increasing demand for it, so I kind of just decided I would open a business for it."

She's currently selling mochi only out of her home, and only to local clients. But she's hoping her spin on the treat – "the right balance of mochi to crunchy/textured fillings," she said – will spark a newfound affinity for mochi in her adopted hometown.

Elsewhere around the world, the good fortune continues to proliferate. California Mochi, in Mountain View, has added fruit mochi, with fillings like brownie berry, mango mousse, pineapple and kiwi, to its line of mochi ice creams available in-store and online. Other sellers prefer the wholesale route, selling to suppliers around the country. A shop called Mochidoki primarily does home delivery, but you can also visit its stall at Turnstyle Markets in New York City to get a quick mochi fix.

And of course, there's always the DIY approach: making mochi at home. Try it!

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Meet mochi, the snackable ice cream treat of your dreams
It's a Japanese dessert that's taken the world by storm: Bite-sized ice cream wrapped in a sweet, doughy exterior.