Ever since I was very young, mochi has been a special treat for me. My mother would take us to the Japanese part of town every once in a while to stock up on the Japanese foods that she liked, and we would always stop by the little bakery in the shopping center. We each were allowed to pick one piece of mochi to take home with us and eat later. I usually picked the striped mochi – a piece with white and pink stripes, but although sweet, it lacked any specific flavor.
As I grew older, I learned to love a wider range of mochi. As a young girl, I wouldn’t touch the pieces with azuki bean paste (red bean paste) in the middle. Now I’ll go out of my way to get sushi with azuki bean paste in the middle. (Although I haven’t gotten around to making any yet. I’m working on it, for sure.) I love flavored mochi – especially orange-flavored mochi, and I’ve even tried making my own. (That was a yummy experiment!) So of course, when I saw a mochi stand in the mall in Hawaii, and read about a mochi ice cream store online, I knew I had to visit both.
Kansai Yamamoto – Mochi
Kansai Yamamoto is a small stand in the food court of the Ala Moana center – the same food court where I ate at Coco Ichiban Curry House. We had been walking through the mall after dinner at the Curry House on Sunday, and like a magnet I was drawn to the stand.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen this many flavors of mochi in one place. We had quite a bit of trouble deciding which types we wanted to try. Never before had we seen mango or honeydew mochi, so it was easy to decide to buy those. On a whim, we also decided to try the chocolate peanut butter mochi, since the typical plain mochi with azuki bean paste in the center was nowhere to be found.
The chocolate peanut butter mochi was… interesting. It consisted of chocolate-flavored mochi, with a chunky peanut butter filling. By itself, the chocolate mochi wasn’t anything I would want to spend money on. But if you can get a bite of the chunky peanut butter with every bite… that’s what makes it special. The contrast of the sweet and the salty, the soft and the crunchy… it’s rather delicious.
Even more special were the honeydew and mango mochi. Never had I tasted mochi so flavorful. Neither of these flavors were very sweet, but the honeydew and mango flavors were very strong. Not overwhelmingly so, but just right – almost as if you were eating the fruit, except in soft mochi form. Perhaps these have a lot more extract or juice in them than the ones at home, or perhaps it’s just that everything seems to be more flavorful in Hawaii. I wonder if the Los Angeles smog has been dulling the flavors of foods all these years? No matter – these mochi were delicious.
Bubbie’s – Mochi Ice Cream
This place is hell to find. After dinner at Yotteko-Ya on Monday, it must have taken us a good half-hour to find Bubbie’s, even though it wasn’t that far from Yotteko-Ya. As much of a pain in the butt this place is to find (it’s hidden from view from the street, and you have to take a little side-street to get there), it was entirely worth it.
Of course, I have had the mochi ice cream that you can find at Trader Joe’s or Japanese supermarkets before. The normal flavors – strawberry, chocolate, vanilla, etc. can all be found here. But what takes Bubbie’s above and beyond are the other flavors. After several minutes gawking at the menu, we decided on chocolate peanut butter, guava, sakura (cherry blossom), and azuki bean. The chocolate peanut butter mochi ice cream was alright, I liked the guava mochi ice cream, the sakura mochi ice cream was a new flavor I am very glad to have tried (and enjoyed)… and then there was the azuki bean. Oh my goodness, the azuki bean. Bits of bean were flecked throughout the ice cream, and the flavor was very prominent, unlike some of the other flavors of mochi ice cream. By far my favorite, I immensely enjoyed the azuki bean mochi ice cream. So yummy.
We enjoyed the mochi ice cream so much, we got four more pieces to go. We got almost the same order, except instead of the guava, we got green tea. Quite good choice… Son loved the green tea mochi ice cream. Although the mochi ice cream did melt a little in our hotel “freezer,” I actually enjoyed them better like this. The flavors are stronger when the ice cream is slightly melted, so the azuki bean mochi ice cream was that much more enjoyable for me. Yum.