While we’ve tried freshly made Mochi (the Japanese Sweet made of Pounded Rice) at Sakura-Ya before, thanks to @MaladyNelson, we found out about Chikara Mochi, which was another old-school Mochi specialist that happened to be just a few stores down(!). It felt like a fun, relaxing, Mochi-type of a day, so off we went to explore Mochi.
Walking into Chikara Mochi, it is definitely slightly fancier than Sakura-Ya. And as soon as I laid eyes on the Mochi case, a giant smile formed across my face. These looked absolutely adorable! I had to order one of everything (and secretly wished I could just put them up for display at home), LOL.
Chikara’s Mochi are the result of Kinoe Itou, and are made fresh every day. It should be noted that although visually they look like very distinct flavors, fundamentally almost all of them are the same flavor - either a sweetened Red Bean or White Bean filling - with the soft pounded Rice on the exterior.
Goma - Black Sesame Seed - Mochi:
I was super excited to try this, hoping for Black Sesame flavors, but really it’s more for decoration. The Mochi exterior is soft, delicate and the Sweet Red Bean filling is smooth and sweet.
Kiku - Chrysanthemum - Mochi:
Momiji - Japanese Maple - Mochi:
The sweet White Bean filling is less sweet and more to my taste. The Rice exterior is still as soft and pliant as the previous ones.
Ringo - Apple - Mochi:
So adorable! They add a subtle glaze on top to make it look like a polished “Apple” but really it’s still the same fillings as before.
Botan - Peony - Mochi:
Kaki - Japanese Persimmon - Mochi:
Another visually amazing Mochi, looking like a Persimmon. I wish they actually infused Persimmon into the Mochi.
This is one of the unique Mochi, and we were surprised they could still offer what is traditionally a Spring seasonal item during Autumn. Either way, it was OK, the Sakura leaf was noticeably salty, but it was balanced out by the Sweet Red Bean filling and the Rice.
Aka Tombo - Red Dragonfly - Mochi:
Peanut Butter Mochi:
One of the more unique offerings is their Peanut Butter Mochi. I was hesitant, but it works surprisingly well. Soft, delicate pounded Rice on the outside, and a dollop of Peanut Butter on the inside. If they were able to use a more fresh-grounded Peanut Butter (obviously cost considerations factor in), this probably would’ve been amazing.
Matsutake - Matsutake Mushroom - Mochi:
So cute! Itou-san is clearly having fun with the season, and in honor of Fall, they have a Matsutake Mushroom-shaped Mochi! There is (thankfully) no Mushroom flavor in this sweet, but visually it’s impressive.
Uguisu - Japanese Bush Warbler - Mochi:
Named after a type of Japanese Bird, this is essentially their Kinako Mochi, with Roasted Soybean Powder adding a light nuttiness to the Mochi. This was delicious.
This was a surprise: In the vein of Sakura Mochi, they have a seasonal release of using Shiso Leaves to wrap the Mochi! I love Shiso (Japanese Basil), but these have turned brown (oxidation?), and the flavor is strange. It’s pungent, and salted, and nothing like fresh Shiso, so I was slightly disappointed.
Visually, Chikara Mochi has the most adorable and prettiest Mochi I’ve seen in So Cal. The rice is delicate and they are quite good, much better than the Mochi offerings by mass produced places. Prices are very reasonable ranging from $1.60 - $2 each.
16108 S. Western Ave.
Gardena, CA 90247
Tel: (310) 324-5256
Just a few doors down from Chikara Mochi is an old-school Mochi specialist shop. We wanted to compare the flavors immediately after trying Chikara.
Run by the Fujita family, they’ve been making Japanese Mochi (Pounded Rice Sweets) by hand since 1960!
Visually, after going to Chikara Mochi, there’s no comparison. Chikara have pretty, beautiful creations. Sakura-Ya is more humble, plain, rustic, but the most important thing is the taste. We couldn’t wait to try…
White Mochi (Sweet Azuki Bean Filling):
While Chikara Mochi already has a soft, delicate Mochi texture, there’s no comparison:
Like biting into a cloud, Sakura-Ya’s Mochi are SO FLUFFY!
I took it for granted, but having them back-to-back, it’s so much softer, pillowy and wonderful!
Kinako Mochi (Soy Bean Powder, Sweet Azuki Bean Filling):
Like our previous visits, the Kinako Mochi is even better. It’s still using freshly pounded Rice as a base, and filled with a sweet Azuki Bean filling, but the Kinako Powder on the outside gives a nice nutty flavor.
So now you have fluffy clouds with a pleasing roasted nutty aroma!
Pink Mochi (Sweet White Bean Filling):
The Pink Mochi has a sweet White Bean filling, instead of Azuki (Red) Beans. Like at Chikara, I think I like the Sweet White Bean filling more.
Green Mochi - Yomogi (Japanese Mugwort) Flavored Rice with Smooth Red Bean Filling:
I was curious how pronounced the Yomogi might be, but it was very faint. Still as consistent as the others, though, with a wonderful mouthfeel.
I can’t believe they sell for only $1.40 each.
So between the two, I think @MaladyNelson’s assessment was perfect: Go to Chikara Mochi for pretty Mochi (and for gifts to others), and go to Sakura-Ya for the best tasting Mochi.
Chikara Mochi aren’t “bad” at all, they are quite good! It’s soft, delicate and tasty. But beyond the visuals, I think we’d rather eat the more rustic, humble-looking Mochi from Sakura-Ya. The filling is less sweet, and the outside Mochi is just superior: Supremely FLUFFY!
(Cash or Check Only)
16134 S. Western Ave.
Gardena, CA 90247
Tel: (310) 323-7117
Thanks to the reminder from @A5KOBE, we stopped by Fugetsu-Do in Little Tokyo, to see how the oldest of the Japanese Confectioneries in L.A. compared. Founded in 1903(!), walking in to Fugetsu-Do had a charming, old-timey feel to the place.
Current owner and Mochi maker Brian Kito represents the 3rd generation of the family that has been running Fugetsu-Do since his grandfather Seiichi Kito opened it up in Little Tokyo in 1903.
We ordered 8 of the most enticing looking Mochi / Manju on display:
Green Tea Manju:
Manju is usually made with Flour, Rice Powder and with a filling of Red Bean (or White Bean), and we were intrigued (I love Green Tea!). The Manju was just OK. It tasted like a denser, chewier version of Dim Sum’s Charsiu Bao, like a Steamed Bun. The filling had a slight Green Tea tinge, but really was very sweet from the Red Bean.
This was Manju that supposedly had Ume (Japanese Plum) mixed in with the Red Bean, which sounded wild. This was also hampered by the dryish, dense Manju outside, but the Plum mixture - slightly tart - helped balance out the Sweetened Red Bean filling a bit.
Red Bean Daifuku:
This is like Mochi but it’s chewier, with the focus on the pounded Rice. The Sweetened Red Bean filling however was really sweet. It was nice, and slightly chewier than the standard Mochi.
Kusa (Red Bean) Mochi:
Their classic Mochi (with Sweetened Red Bean) has a delicate, soft texture, with the rice exterior being more pliant and not as chewy as the Daifuku.
But in terms of delicate, pillowy-ness, Sakura-Ya is by far better, with Fugetsu-Do 2nd, and Chikara Mochi 3rd.
Kiku (White Bean) Mochi:
The White Bean filling is also just as over-sweet as the Red Bean at Fugetsu-Do. Our friends didn’t mind, but I felt in terms of Sugar content, Sakura-Ya was less sweet (better), with Chikara Mochi 2nd and Fugetsu-Do 3rd.
Habutai (Red Bean) Mochi:
This was their classic Mochi with Sweetened Red Bean, with the white rice exterior. It tasted pretty close to the Kusa.
Uguisu (Red Bean) with Kinako Mochi:
This is their take on the Toasted Soy Bean Powder Mochi. While the Kinako was wonderful, their overly sweet filling detracted from the Mochi for us.
Strawberry Anco Mochi:
While it’s spelled “Anco” on their display, this is essentially their Anko (Red Bean) filling which is much smoother than their chunkier version in some of the Mochi.
It is also a newer fusion flavor, catering to the younger generation perhaps, with a real Strawberry Jam-like taste, mixed in with the Anko itself. It was different, kinda fun, but also a bit too sweet.
One of the nicest aspects is what @A5KOBE mentions about their gift-wrapping. They feature Free Gift Wrapping when you buy their Mochi, and it’s definitely the nicest presentation out of all 3 places (to give as gifts):
Ranging from $1.25 - $1.50 for each sweet, Fugetsu-Do is right in line with the other 2 places.
In thinking back on all 3 Confectioneries now, I’d have to say:
- Chikara Mochi
Sakura-Ya has the perfect combination of amazing pillowy, cloud-like fluffiness, and is less sweet than the other 2 places, especially their White Bean filling. That combination makes the overall taste our favorite. Fugetsu-Do would’ve been 2nd if they used less Sugar, but it was just too sweet for us.
- Chikara Mochi
Just in terms of pounded rice, softness and feel, Sakura-Ya is first, and Fugetsu-Do was better than Chikara.
Visual Artistry (“Plating”):
- Chikara Mochi
Just visually, Chikara has the most beautiful, creative, fun Mochi to wow yourself and friends & family. Fugetsu-Do has some interesting looking ones as well, but also has plain ones. Sakura-Ya may not have the pretty exterior, but they more than make up for it in overall Taste & Texture.
Variety / Flavors:
- Chikara Mochi
Fugetsu-Do had the most varieties & offerings (they also had a Blueberry-flavored Mochi(!), besides the other flavors like Green Tea and Ume). However, we felt that they were undermined by the excessive Sugar content in their fillings.
But ultimately, all 3 places are much better than the typical “Mochi” you might find prepackaged in supermarkets, etc.They are wonderful places to visit when you get a chance.
315 E. 1st St.
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Tel: (213) 625-8595