Sakura-ya Mochi (Gardena, California) - New Years Post #1

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Sakura-ya (Gardena, CA) Mochi
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!

Sakura-ya (Gardena, CA) Mochi Sakura-ya (Gardena, CA) Mochi
This is a very traditional mochi called "daifuku". It is filled with red bean paste (rough or "tsubu" in texture).

Sakura-ya (Gardena, CA) Mochi Sakura-ya (Gardena, CA) Mochi
This is a big favorite with kids. It's called "pink mochi" (pretty descriptive, huh?). Filled with smooth lima beans.

Sakura-ya (Gardena, CA) Mochi Sakura-ya (Gardena, CA) Mochi
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").

Sakura-ya (Gardena, CA) Mochi Sakura-ya (Gardena, CA) Mochi
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).

Sakura-ya (Gardena, CA) Mochi Sakura-ya (Gardena, CA) Mochi
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!

Each box is wrapped and tied with a ribbon!

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
(310) 323-7117

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!
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Megan said... [Reply to comment]

I certainly learned a lot here - I always thought mochi was the ice cream balls that you can get in the Japanese restaurants. Shows how much I know! Thanks for the culinary lesson on mochi!

The Food Librarian said... [Reply to comment]

I should have mentioned there are a bunch of mochi varieties. There are little mochi balls that you can put on top of Pinkberry frozen yogurt, and there are mochi dango that are covered in a sweet soy sauce...I just highlighted one type here! I hope you get to try some soon!!! - mary the food librarian

Unknown said... [Reply to comment]

I am so putting this place on my must visit list! Can I just ask for an assorted box of mochi, or do I need to ask for a specific kind? Also, are these only new years delicacies?

The Food Librarian said... [Reply to comment]

These mochi on this post are available all year. Each is sold by the piece so you can pick your selection, and the staff can tell you what's in each one and help you! - mary the food librarian

Snooky doodle said... [Reply to comment]


J.L. Danger said... [Reply to comment]

Before we moved to Orange County I used to go here! i remember when my friend first told me about it I was skeptical, and then when they told me what was in it I almost said no. But man oh man it is so delicious! I miss it. Now I want some!

Coco Cake Land said... [Reply to comment]

i looove your new years posts!! so good! i am chinese canadian but adore japanese food as well, and i loooove mochi!

Jodie said... [Reply to comment]

Ok, I don't love manju- the beans are gross. But I do like the sweetened plain mochi! Fugetsu-do is my family's fave. When I worked in downtown LA, my mom would always make me go there and buy her and my aunt goodies before we came home to visit!

Linda said... [Reply to comment]

Oooooh, I love eating mochi...there's is something about the stickiness and consistency that I can't get enough of. I've never been to Sakura-ya, and I must check it out.

Also, if you haven't already, you need to try Moonpillows mochi truffles (to DIE for). It's a total merging of eastern and western cultures.

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