Vegansaurus! for the discovery. Indeed, I have become dependent on that snarky little blog for most of my San Francisco-related food finds. It's fantastic, and you should check it out, even if you don't live in/around the Bay Area. They also cover vegan finds in NYC, LA, and other places. They get around, so to speak. In any case, the post that introduced me to Benkyodo can be found here, but Benkyodo actually has their own website, if you'd like to leer at more mochi than this particular post will afford you.
My mochi story probably begins with this entry for daifuku on Lolo's blog: Vegan Yum Yum. I was immediately drawn to their pillowy softness and secretive fillings. I took a run at them, but failed. I was rushing, for some reason that I can no longer recall, and my daifuku sucked. I ended up throwing them out, which was depressing on two levels: 1) I hate hate hate hate hate hate to waste, and 2) I failed. Generally when this happens I pick myself right back up and remake the offending recipe. For whatever reason, though, I never got back around to the daifuku.
While I still think I'll try my hand at making my own, I was positively giddy when I walked into Benkyodo and saw the case filled with little mochi confections in the softest pinks, greens, and whites. The nice woman behind the counter waited patiently as I decoded the sign indicating which mochi were filled/flavored with what. C, for his part, openly smirked at my enthusiasm, selected one mochi for himself, and then assured me later that my over-anxious performance was "cute."
Here is my final selection. The pink ones with the nipple-ish dot are filled with smooth lima bean paste. The green one was mugwort filled with whole red beans, and the one that looks purple but is actually white was smooth red beans. The green with the yellow powder was C's pick: smooth red beans with soy flour. He's always down for extra protein. The white with the flowers stamped on them are actually buns filled with red bean paste. Finally, my absolute favorite were the plain pink, filled with white lima bean paste and fresh strawberries. If I ever wind up on death row, my final meal will include strawberry mochi.
If you've never had mochi, do your best to remedy the situation. Come visit! I'll take you to Benkyodo. You can experience the glory. In the spirit of the thing, though, I'll attempt to describe the experience of eating one. The mochi itself is basically dough made from rice flour and sugar. These are cooked together, filled, and then rolled in cornstarch. In your mouth, they feel like the softest, most forbidden thing you've ever wanted to eat. They smell like sugary flours. They remind me of how desperately I wanted to eat my Strawberry Shortcake action figure when I was a kid. She just smelled so. damned. good. They are an amazing combination of ultra soft and slightly chewy. Then there is the combination of textures: the smoothness of the mochi dough, the powdery slipperiness of the cornstarch, the slight graininess of the bean paste. Heaven.