Box of sweetened mochi and manju from Sakura-ya in Gardena, California
Happy New Year!!! I'm welcoming the new year with a cold so I'm drinking lots of tea, blogging and watching Stephanie Edwards return to the booth for the Rose Parade (she was so robbed!) Somehow, I have lots of talk about so I'm dividing my New Years posts into three separate entries: 1. sweet mochi from Sakura-ya, 2. mochi making with the family, and 3. Japanese New Years food!
Last Saturday, my family got together for our annual mochi making day. Mochi is simply pounded rice. My next post is about my family's mochi making process...but I thought I would show you some sweetened mochi you might see the rest of the year in a Japanese store.
Sakura-ya is a family-owned Japanese confectionery in Gardena, California (Southern California). They make and sell some of the best [sweetened] mochi on earth. (Full disclosure: I worked there as a high school student 20 years ago...and have eaten a lot of mochi since (both here and in Japan) and I think Sakura-ya is the best!)
This mochi, also called wagashi, is sweetened with sugar and filled with sweet bean paste. What?! Beans in a confection?! Yes. Asians do some crazy mad stuff with beans. Mochi uses red "azuki" beans and lima beans. I've had Chinese pastries with sweetened mung beans. Beans and sugar. It really is a good thing. Definitely try it!
This is a very traditional mochi called "daifuku". It is filled with red bean paste (rough or "tsubu" in texture).
This is a big favorite with kids. It's called "pink mochi" (pretty descriptive, huh?). Filled with smooth lima beans.
This mochi is called the "yomogi" because it has the yomogi herb/weed in it. It's filled with smooth ("koshi") red bean paste ("an").
Not all mochi is made with pounded rice. This one is baked and is called the "imo" or sweet potato. Some people call items made with rice MOCHI and these baked items MANJU (pronounced: mon-jew). It is very delicious and lasts a bit longer than mochi which can harden. The "kuri" or chestnut manju is also very delicious (not pictured).
The orange mochi is perfect for the beginner mochi eater! :) A favorite with kids, it has no filling. It is just a chewy block of sweetened mochi. The one on the right is called "kinako" because it is a red bean paste filled mochi topped with soybean powder, or kinako. Sure "soybean powder" doesn't sound that great on paper, but it goes well with the mochi - believe me!
Sakura-Ya [by the way, Sakura is "cherry blossom" and -ya makes something a "store"]
16134 S. Western Avenue (near Redondo Beach Blvd.) (Not far off the 405 freeway)
Gardena, CA 90247
Non descript storefront, not a fancy place (in fact, it looks the same after all these years!), nice staff and OH SO DELICIOUS! Each handcrafted mochi is $1 a piece. (Also, there are more types than the ones in my box)
Other places you might want to try: Fugetsu-do and Mikawaya in Little Tokyo or in local Japanese grocery stores. Fugetsu-do has chocolate and peanut butter mochi, and Mikawaya created mochi ice cream (you can find that at Costco and Trader Joe's nowadays). Mochi ice cream has a really really thin layer of mochi and is mostly ice cream. Please try to have a sweetened mochi with bean paste filling someday! :)
Next up, my family making PLAIN mochi or komochi for New Years!