How do sumo wrestlers get so fat?
Learning how to make Japanese stew and rice cakes with the big boys.
Last week I was given the opportunity to hang out with a bunch of sumo wrestlers.
I was part of Omochitsuki – a traditional Japanese festival where cooked rice is pounded with large wooden mallets until it becomes mochi, a much-loved Japanese sweet.
A hollowed segment of tree trunk is used, and is extremely heavy. The convenient round bowl-shape holds up to the hard wood mallets used to smash the rice.
The rice was pounded by the sumo wrestlers until it became gelatinous, then folded by hand.
The resulting mochi was then passed on to a group of parents who dusted it in kinako – soybean flour.
In Japan, a lot of events have their origins in times when most villager’s diets consisted of very simple food. A long time ago, when rice was used as a currency, most Japanese only got to eat rice on special occasions. A condensed rice treat then, would have more calories, and be even more special.
Once the mochi was made, it was time to wash up…
And begin making chankonabe – a famous Japanese stew commonly eaten in vast quantities by sumo wrestlers in order to gain weight.
Mirin and garlic paste was added to a base of chicken broth…
And then left to simmer in a vat of chicken (quartered, skin left on), tofu and vegetables (mushrooms, daikon, bok choy).
After we ate, some of us could hardly move…
But soon there was the small matter of sumo wrestling to attend to.
It was a fun day.