Mochi On My Mind

Columns Ono, You Know

August 26, 2012

Story By: Alana Folen | Photos by: Leah Friel

Happy Sunday, Ono readers! Thank goodness it’s Sunday because this past week was crazy busy. Between juggling work, family, caring for my dog Kea and cleaning up after my new 8-week-old puppy, Oreo, who is currently being potty trained and is chewing on everything he can get his paws on, I was about to lose my mind.

OK, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but just when things feel as if they’re falling apart, there’s always that one special (edible) thing that holds it all together. For me, that special thing is mochi. In essence, this chewy good stuff is a tried-and-true life saver. Not only does it signify the act of keeping everything in place with its sticky texture, but it tastes divine!

Therefore, this week, it was my mission to devour all types of mochi, from traditional Japanese fare, to Chinese mochi rice and morsels of Korean mochi rice cake. The stickier the better, and I found that this is the best way to keep life in tact (figuratively speaking). So without further ado, here at the following Ono, You Know establishments, you’ll find triple the treat, which equates to pure bliss. Now, with all the stresses aside, there’s only mochi on my mind.

Fukuya Deli and Catering

A culinary legend all its own, Fukuya Deli and Catering has earned a loyal following throughout the years for its superlative okazu fare. Conveniently located on South King Street, this beloved okazuya offers all of your favorites since small-kid time, and according to Arrison Iwahira, Fukuya president and great-grandson of the original founders Jihei and Tsuya Takayama, the majority of all the recipes here have been in the family for generations.

Sure, you gotta love the eatery’s acclaimed Miso Butterfish, Nori Chicken and Musubi, but be sure to make note that Fukuya has an assortment of mochi that is out-of-this-world onolicious!

“We make our mochi fresh every day,” Iwahira says. And they’ve got it down to a science. Available in a variety of flavors and vibrant hues of hot pink, green and orange, these morsels of mochi are pure delight.

“Priced at 60 cents each, the pink mochi and white mochi are filled with the traditional azuki bean, and the green ones are filled with shiro ahn (white sweet potato or lima beans),” Iwahira says.

If you’re a traditionalist you may prefer ohagi mochi (70 cents each) with an azuki bean exterior and a mochi rice interior.

“This particular mochi was very popular back in the day, a lot of our old-timers like it,” Iwahira adds, noting that on the contrary, the peanut butter-filled mochi is a hit with the younger generations.

Of course, we can’t forget about the classic chi chi dango, priced at 55 cents each.

“Mochi has been on our menu since 1984, and it’s an important aspect of Japanese culture and of many local families,” he says.

Fukuya’s mochi is addicting, so consider buying a dozen or more because you can’t stop at just one! The eatery is open Wednesday through Sunday from 6 a.m to 2 p.m.

Fukuya Deli and Catering
2710 S. King St.
946.2073

Golden Palace Seafood

When in Chinatown there are so many restaurants serving up authentic Chinese fare, but when you’re craving dim sum, you can’t get a better deal than at Golden Palace Seafood. Known for some of the cheapest dim sum in town, this restaurant on North King Street sizzles with baskets upon baskets of pork hash, shrimp dumplings and none other than Mochi Rice wrapped in Lotus Leaf ($1.98 for two pieces). As my favorite dim sum of the bunch, there’s much to love about the inviting aroma and flavors. Once the lotus leaf is unwrapped, you’ll find a mound of sticky mochi rice intermixed with diced chicken, lup cheong (Chinese sausage), dried mushrooms and dried shrimp marinated to perfection.

“Most people are fans of Mochi Rice wrapped in Lotus Leaf because it has a little bit of everything,” says restaurant manager Gary Lam. “Jung is another popular Chinese dish that consists of mochi rice, but it’s not categorized as dim sum.”

Found on Golden Palace’s regular menu, Jung ($3) features mochi rice infused with Chinese red beans and salted duck egg yolk. Although it may be an acquired taste for some, it’s something that you must try at some point in your life. It’s a meal wrapped nicely together in a tea leaf cone — simply convenient and satisfying.

“What we do is we fill the tea leaf cone with the many ingredients and, of course, mochi rice, wrap the tea leaf ever so tightly and then boil it,” Lam explains. “The mochi rice is naturally sticky and it tastes very good.”

All this and so much more is ready for you to enjoy at Golden Palace.

Golden Palace Seafood
111 N. King St.
521.8268

Red House in Honolulu

With traditional Japanese mochi and Chinese mochi rice filling up my stomach, I had just enough room for one more serving of mochi madness. My final stop led me to Red House in Honolulu.

Having recently opened its doors this past December, Red House is a top pick for Korean cuisine. Owner Justin Chun describes the dining experience as Korean and American fusion. And if the trendy and modern atmosphere is any indication of the cuisine, then it’s bound to be delicious. And indeed it is!

On my most recent venture to the eatery, Chun presented me with three mouth-watering entrees showcasing topokki or Korean-style rice cake.

“Topokki are pieces of chewy rice cake, so I guess you could say in our topokki dishes, we supplement pasta for topokki,” Chun explains.

White Topokki ($13.99) was first on the list featuring topokki rice cake doused in a cream pasta sauce with bacon, bell peppers and broccoli, and sprinkled with a dash of black pepper. White Topokki is not spicy in the least, so if you would like to heat things up, I would highly recommend Red Cream Topokki ($15.99), a spicy version of the previous dish splashed with a spicy red cream sauce.

And a visit to Red House wouldn’t be complete without taking on the spiciest of all topokki dishes — Red House Top and Noodle. Priced at $15.99, you’ll be seeing red as this dish consisting of topokki and ramen is swimming in a spicy, but flavorful sauce topped with egg and green onions. Trust me, the temperature is already rising.

“Red House Top and Noodle is a must-have for Koreans. Topokki is an authentic Korean dish, our version of mochi,” Chun adds.

So, on your next visit to Red House, drown out the heat and lose yourself in culinary masterpieces and K-pop jams that are at the top of their game.

Red House in Honolulu
835 Keeaumoku St. #I-101B
944.0088