Japanese Mochi Both Modern and Traditional

| June 30, 2012 | 3 Comments
  • 3 Comments

Azuki and Lima Bean Filled Mochi From Shuei-Do Manju Shop, San Jose
Azuki & Lima Bean Filled Mochi From Shuei-Do Manju Shop, San Jose

If you’ve ever had mochi (or manju), you’ll know that you can’t eat just one. Its contrast of light yet densely chewy texture and mild sweetness is filled with everything from the traditional red azuki or white lima bean paste, to green tea ice cream.

Japanese mochi is a small ping pong ball-sized dessert made from glutinous rice paste, molded into a round ball or cut into squares, and filled with, most traditionally, red or white bean paste. The exterior is dusted with a bit of rice flour to prevent sticking.

Shuei-Do Manju Shop Goodies
Shuei-Do Manju Shop Goodies

One of the only Bay Area Japanese confectionery shops left in the Bay Area, Shuei-Do Manju Shop in San Jose’s Japantown has been making these treats the old-fashioned way by hand for over 60 years. You can find many traditional versions, along with some fun flavors like raspberry, coconut, and peanut butter (they’re not available everyday, so call to find out what the flavors of the day are). The care and artistry of each piece comes through in every bite. The mochi exterior is soft, chewy, and dense, while the interior red bean filling is thick and sweet.
Shuei-Do Manju Shop is a San Jose treasure and has earned a devoted cult following. It’s an even more popular destination in the summer because of their other specialty: Hawaiian shaved ice.

Mochicream Display Case of Various Mochi Flavors
Mochicream Display Case of Various Mochi Flavors

On the other end of the mochi scale is Mochicream. This popular Japanese chain calls itself a “Japanese Sweets Deli.” They’re doing for mochi what Pinkberry did for frozen yogurt, or Sprinkles for cupcakes.

Their only Northern California outpost is located inside the Japanese mini-mall, Mitsuwa Marketplace in San Jose. Daring mochi flavors like Caramel Macchiato, Cranberry, Blueberry Yogurt and Orange Cheese fill their immaculately arranged refrigerated glass cases.

I was surprised to learn that their sweets are made in Japan and then shipped fresh to the States, weekly. It’s not exactly homemade like Grandma would make.

Mochicream Cranberry Cream Mochi With Layer of White Bean Filling
Mochicream Cranberry Cream Mochi With Layer of White Bean Filling

And mochi, when filled with cream, can easily get soggy because of all the moisture. They’ve combated this problem by surrounding the cream fillings with white bean paste, creating almost a layer of insulation inside each mochi ball. This way, they’re able to freeze these confections and ship them all the way out here without extensive damage to its flavor or texture. And they instruct you to let them “defrost” for about 15 minutes before diving in.

Mochicream Apple Pie Filled Mochi
Mochicream Apple Pie Filled Mochi

The mochi is soft, light and airy, but a bit of sogginess does indeed plague this international treat. But if you’re into mochi or are looking for something sweet that is a bit out of the ordinary, it’s definitely worth a try. The Apple Pie was my far and away favorite, with bits of apple pie filling and little pie crust crumbles to give it some real depth of flavor and surprising texture. My second favorite was the Darjeeling for its nice subtle yet distinct tea flavor that fortunately, wasn’t too sweet.

Whether you’ve tried mochi before or not, both these places offer up some great examples of this classic sweet Japanese treat.

Shuei-Do Manju Shop
Address: 217 E. Jackson Street, San Jose
Phone: (408) 294-4148
Facebook: Shuei-Do Manju Shop
Prices: Between $1 to $3

Mochicream
(Located inside Mitsuwa Marketplace)
Address: 675 Saratoga Ave., San Jose
Phone: (408) 725-9263
Prices: Between $1 to $3

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Category: asian food and drink, bay area, dessert and chocolate, local food businesses

About the Author ()

Elaine spent over 11 years working in television and radio as a producer, writer and correspondent for MTV Asia, KPIX/CBS 5, and radio stations like KSAN and KTCT in San Francisco. After leaving broadcasting, she began working for financial software giant, Intuit, where she managed their customer word-of-mouth programs and then spearheaded their internal social media communication strategies. She’s also managed external communications for BlogHer, the largest community of women bloggers online, and is currently the director of corporate communications at Rocket Fuel, a digital advertising technology startup in Silicon Valley. Her personal blog, VirgoBlue , was started in 2007 as a way to express her love of food as she explores the culinary delights of the Bay Area and beyond.
  • Anonymous

    That mochi spread look so awesomely delicious la =D

  • Cleo

    how do they compare to the old Chinatown standbys of coconut flaked coated mochi with crushed peanuts, sugar crystals and coconut filling and the banana flavored mochi similar to the Thai and Vietnamese ones with the lotus seed paste swirl? Every Chinatown in America has had this in their old fashioned Toisan bakeries. All these items hailed from Southern China originally so Japantown is basically selling Chinese snacks that they have altered. In fairness, let’s be HONEST.

  • kym

    Just made my first batch of mochi with fresh made red bean paste. Not as pretty as the ones in the images above but I’ll get there one day. I originally was thinking of making the peanut coconut mochi that I grew up eating from Chinatown bakeries. They’re so good! But the steps are actually a little more complicated (more ingredients and steps in the dough) than Japanese style mochi. One day I’ll learn to make that as well.