Gohei-mochi is a local cuisine of the mountain areas of Chubu region, prefectures including Nagano, Gifu, and Aichi. Mochi means rice cake, and it usually uses glutinous rice. On the other hand, gohei-mochi uses regular rice, mashed and put on a small wooden stick.
Gohei-mochi comes in different shape or taste depending on each area. The shape of gohei-mochi is normally flat and oval, which is similar to zori, a flat Japanese sandals with thongs. But in some areas, the rice is shaped into flat and round pieces, or small balls.
Gohei-mochi is seasoned with sweet sauce, made by using either soy sauce or miso soy bean paste as a base, and adding ingredients containing oils and fats such as sesame seed, or chestnut. To make the sauce sweet, quite a bit of sugar is added too.
The most common way to make gohei-mochi is by mashing cooked rice until it gets sticky, put the rice on a stick, and shape into zori oval shape. The mashed rice on a stick will be roasted slightly, so it will not lose its shape. Sweet sauce will be spread on, and will be roasted, so the flavour will be savoury.
It is believed that gohei-mochi is named after gohei, which is a wooden wand decorated with paper streamers used in Shinto rituals, and gohei-mochi looks like gohei. Shinto is a religion from ancient Japan that worships multitude of gods.
It is also told that people who lived in Kiso and Ina area of Nagano prefecture during the Edo period (1603-1868), started to make gohei-mochi. When rice was still precious, they offered and ate gohei-mochi as auspicious food on festivals and celebrations.