The love of rice the Japanese have may partially explain the recent boom behind the “moffle” — a Belgian waffle-shaped “mochi” pounded rice cake.
It may look just like a waffle, but one bite is enough to tell the difference. While the outside is toasted and crispy, the inside contains a thin layer of glutinous mochi.
According to Sanyei Co., which came up with the moffle and also invented moffle makers for both business and home use, the product has been selling so well recently that there are hardly any left in stock.
“(Demand) is more than what we expected,” said Yohei Yamasaki, a spokesman for Sanyei.
Making a moffle is quite simple. Just open the lid of the moffle maker, which looks very similar to a waffle iron, place the mochi inside and close the lid. After several minutes, a toasted waffle-looking mochi is ready.
It is also possible to make moffle sandwiches by combining ingredients with the mochi before cooking. Alternatively, you can add sweet or salty toppings as the plain taste of mochi goes well with either. For example, a moffle can be made into a meal by adding ham and cheese to the mochi, or a dessert by putting ice cream on it.
Yamasaki said moffles started to become popular in December and January when the fare received media coverage introducing it as a unique, new type of food.
But the birth of the moffle goes back a lot further than this.
When Sanyei was carrying out a sales demonstration of a waffle iron in 1999, one observer commented, “It would be nice if we could toast mochi with it.”
Later on, the company tested mochi on a waffle iron, creating food people had never seen before, and received a trademark in 2000.
Although Sanyei had provided the moffle as a demonstration recipe, it really caught consumer attention when the company served it at a food exhibition in 2006.
Yamasaki said people loved moffles, and the company served about 600 each day during the two-day exhibition.
This positive reaction led Sanyei to produce their moffle maker.
The company began selling moffle makers for business use last spring and for home use in August.
One of the main differences between a waffle iron and a moffle maker is the temperature, said Yamasaki, adding the moffle maker is able to cook mochi at a higher temperature.
Due to the recent popularity, Yamasaki said the number of eateries that have ordered moffle makers has increased.
Aki Maita and her husband, Takayuki, opened the 30-seat cafe Sevel in the Oimachi area in Shinagawa Ward, Tokyo, last December.
The cafe serves moffles and has been doing a brisk business.
“A lot of people now come to eat moffles. We have to ask people to wait during weekends,” she said.
Just like Sanyei, their popularity was also unexpected for Maita.
Maita’s first encounter with the moffle was at an exhibition held in Tokyo Big Sight about a year and a half ago.
When Sanyei was introducing business-use moffle makers, Maita and her husband, who had already planned to open a cafe, tasted a “mentaiko” (cod roe) moffle and another with chocolate and ice cream.
“It was something new, looked cute and was delicious,” Maita said. Since the couple wanted to serve something unique, they included moffles on the menu, never expecting them to be such a hit.
When the cafe opened in December, moffles were still new to many, and just one kind was offered daily as “Today’s Moffle.”
Maita said some people would ask what a moffle was but once they tasted it, “I think most people have become repeat customers.”
Now the cafe even makes its own mochi for moffles, adding pumpkin, chocolate and green tea.
Customers can also cook their own moffles at their table using ingredients they pick out from the menu.
Maita said she thinks of moffles as fun food because there are so many ingredients to prepare them with, even frozen croquette, although this is not on the cafe’s menu.
“You can cook pretty much anything with a moffle,” she said.
Yamasaki of Sanyei attributes the moffle’s popularity to its main ingredient: rice.
Also, it is quite healthy because it doesn’t need oil when cooking, he said. “It’s a new type of food, and people can also enjoy cooking it.”