Rice ‘N Smooth

Mikawaya in Little Tokyo specializes in wagashi, which basically translates into japanese confectionary/sweets, but should really translate into “holy fuck cakes, this taste great!”. Most everyone in Los Angeles nowadays knows about the dessert treat mochi ice cream, glutinous rice paste shaped into balls filled with ice cream flava flavs like green tea, mango, and red bean (azuki), now served at most any japanese restaurant. It was at Mikawaya in 1993, a business that’s been in operation since 1910 (starting at 365 East First St, but now at multiple locations throughout LA), where mochi ice cream was created. But as much as I do like the east-meets-west combination of sticky rice and creamed ice, its really the traditional sweets that offer gastronomic satisfaction. There are two different categories of wagashi, nama-gashi and higashi. Its the delicate nama-gashi made of dusted sticky rice dough, with a shelf life of only a day or two, that is the ultimate japanese treat. These are chewy treats in a beautiful range of colours and shapes. Some are filled with red beans, lima beans, mung beans, or vegetable gelatin, while others are flavoured with citrus, shaped into little bird forms, stamped with kanji, or wrapped in shiso leaves (a wonderful play between sweet and salty, a treat for those who like tastes with a bit of depth and complexity). And the best part according to the pastry shop is: “…that the caloric value of wagashi is generally about one-third that of Western style sweets.” Making Sara Lee their bitch with each tasty bite, Mikawaya (118 Japanese Village Plaza, 90012).

3 thoughts on “Rice ‘N Smooth”

  1. That one in the middle looks kind of like a Peep. Anyway, have you tried SakuraYa in Gardena? I read somewhere that they have the best manju in SoCal. If you are ever in NoCal, I recommend Shuei-do in San Jose. YUM.

  2. I have yet to try SakuraYa in Gardena…that whole neighborhood deserves a few weeks of culinary exploration sometime in the near future. Will report back if I make my way over to reputed manju heaven!

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