Lunch with Mom: Mana Bu’s, Palama Market, and Nisshodo Mochiya

In Hawai’i, there’s no person I enjoy eating with more than my mom. I’ve mentioned her numerous times in past posts, but you have no idea how much fun she is to eat with. Yesterday, over a morning meal of local papayas and avocados, she asked, “what should we have for lunch?”

Ideas were bounced back and forth, a proper meal at Mariposa, pho in Chinatown, or a lunch of sweets from various bakeries. Nothing seemed appealing enough, till mom suggested “how about a little of everything from everywhere?”

Why, that sounds lovely!

So we drove around town, to old favourites, and new shops, turning “lunch” into a four-hour affair. You see why mom is so awesome?

First stop: Mana Bu’s. I first read about this relatively new musubi shop (or “musubi temple” as some friends refer to it) in the Star Bulletin back in August.

The simple and clean aesthetics of the shop is unusually refreshing. An impressive variety of musubis are lined along the shelves, each with its own “name card” indicating the ingredients and their origin. Such a concept might not be new in, say, NYC, but it’s a first for Hawai’i :)

Mom is a frequent customer, and a very loyal consumer of the Sekihan Okowa. This musubi is made from a mix of Hakubai sweet rice, and Tamanishiki rice, with local sea salt, red bean, and black sesame seeds.

We picked up a few of those, and one of the “10 Grains – Spicy Ahi” musubi. Prices are more than reasonable, with the musubis averaging $1.50 and desserts $2.00.

They were sold out of most sweets, including the strawberry mochi I’ve heard so much about. But oh well, that’s simply another reason to make a return trip!

We ate the musubis in the car, on the way to my favourite Korean plate lunch spot, Palama Market. Yummy’s used to be our family go-to place for Korean takeout, but since Palama Market opened up a few years back, we’ve taken our business here. Better food, lower prices, what more could you ask for? My dad loves the Korean fried chicken, and I’m a fan of the fish jun, but somehow my mom managed to convert us all over to the Bi Bim Kook Soo, which we now order 90% of the time.

Cold slippery somen noodles, a little sweet, a touch vinegary, and lot spicy. This is the one dish I should have been eating throughout the hot NYC summer. With one eye on the noodles, I couldn’t help but keep the other eye on some pancake flipping action at the counter just a few feet away from the table.

It was a husband and wife operation. The wife would pull sticky, borderline slimy, dough from a big plastic bowl, form it into a ball, make a dent and pour in a spoonful of a powdery substance. Then she rolled it back into a ball, and plopped it onto a well greased griddle.

The husband took over from there, browning both sides and taking orders from a soon to be gradual line up of customers.

My mom caught me looking and commented, “ooo, that looks good. Should we get? Let’s get it.” Always the obedient daughter, I walked up and returned with a single griddled ho duk. Success!

I was a bit too eager, and burnt my tongue and finger, upon biting into the hot ho duk. The mochi esque exterior breaks into this marvelously hot syrupy filling of honey, brown sugar, cinnamon and toasted sesame seeds. SO DELICIOUS. Life is good when you have dessert :)

Soon afterwards, we took a stroll inside the market, picking up various groceries and ingredients for dad’s oxtail soup (post to come :) At the entrance to the market were two ladies handing out samples of “Magic Rice Pop.” Every thirty seconds or so, a loud ::POP:: would go off, and a single rice cake would fly out of the metal contraption and into a plastic bin. I swear, it was mesmerizing to watch.

We bought a fifteen pack for $2.99 – a pretty nice deal. The crackers are made from a slightly sweetened (just a tiny, tiny bit!) flour mix of corn, rice, wheat, barley, and millet. They’re a bit boring at first. And then they grow on you. And before you realize it, you dip your hand into the bag, and (shamefully) realize that the entire bag is gone.

Next we headed to Nisshodo Mochiya in Kalihi for some post-dessert, dessert. It was mom’s idea. My sweet tooth didn’t stem out of nowhere ;)

I’ve been back for four days, and have gone to Nisshodo three times. I’ve been suffering from mochi deprivation on the east coast. What we desperately need in NYC is not another overpriced tapas bar, or underground cocktail spot, but a MOCHI HAVEN. Is that really so much to ask for?

As usual, I could not decide what to have, so took the most efficient route and ordered one of every mochi left in stock for the day…

…and then a half pound of kinako dusted Chi Chi Dango for my sister. Never hurts to have extra ^_^

Let’s break the mochi down, shall we?

Tsunami Mochi – Lima Bean Filling

Coconut Mochi

Peanut Butter Mochi

I sadly cannot recall the name of this one – but it’s filled with azuki beans.

Habutai Mochi

Daifuku Mochi

Uguisu Mochi

This last one isn’t a mochi creation, but curiousity got the best of me and I didn’t want to pass it up. A thin sugar dusted cake with soft sakura jelly – very, very lovely, but in the end, I’d pick mochi over this any day.

It’s been busier than expected on this “relaxing” vacation. But it’s the good sort of busy. Plenty of family time, hanging out with old friends, and meeting great new ones. The rain has lightened up, I managed to drive without any major accident, had a fantastic dinner with Ross at Amuse just this evening, and am lunching with my favourite Punahou home ec teacher tomorrow.

It’s a wonderful week indeed.

Mana Bu’s

1618 King St

Honolulu, Hawai’i 96813

(808) 945-2323

Palama Market

1670 Makaloa Street

(808) 447-7705

Honolulu, Hawai’i 96814

Nisshodo Mochiya

1095 Dillingham Blvd Ste I5

Honolulu, Hawai’i 96817

(808) 847-1244

  • cheesywee
    November 30, -0001

    converted to bibimkooksu!!I completely understand why though- probably my favorite noodle dish for the summer! how lucky !! tears*you have both of best worlds- snow in NY and escaping to the warmth of Hawaii!! the korean sugary-filled pancakes are super popular- a regular street side snack! I’ve been making my own from scratch since its beginning to get cold here!!

  • K and S
    December 18, 2008

    wow, you two must have eaten ALL DAY long :) way to go!!

  • Gastro888
    December 18, 2008

    Keep those posts coming! Sounds like you’re having a great time back home. Would you be able to do a post on huli huli chicken? I loved eating that when I was in Hawaii; too bad there’s no place that makes it here!

  • Jen Choi
    December 18, 2008

    Hi Kathy! It’s Jen, Jess Lin’s roommate again :) I LOVE ho dduk! They make it in street stalls in Korea and they’re so hot and delicious in the winter! Or for any season for that matter :) Enjoy your stay in Hawaii! Eat lots and lots of yummies!

  • Katie
    December 18, 2008

    I really wanted to try Mana Bu’s the last time I was home but they have such peculiar hours that I never made it there. My entire family raves about it. So jealous!Did you know that Barack Obama used to work at the Baskin Robbins a few storefronts down from Mana Bu’s? Quality.

  • Yvo
    December 18, 2008

    That is exactly why I love my mom too! Always game to eat…BTW, I agree about mochi. I was just discussing with my friend about how I read this woman’s blog – she lives in Hawaii – and how she talks about mochi. FRESH mochi. And using it in a savory manner. The only mochi I have here is in froyo, or daifuku sold pre-packaged, or at dim sum. That’s it. I need real mochi please :(

  • KirkK
    December 18, 2008

    Hi Kathy – It looks like you’re maximizing your eating time!

  • SicklyBug & Cassaendra
    December 18, 2008

    Hi Kathy~I sooo miss *fresh* mochi here, too! I was sad when the mochi shop in Moiliili closed down back when I was at UH. I sooo have to hit the musubi shop when I visit next. My family has been raving about it, when they get there in time. It’s sold out so early in the morning! Eat plentier! =)- Cassaendra

  • Tamakikat
    December 19, 2008

    You’ve got me drooling here.I especially like the Korean pancake thingees…Mmmm.TK

  • Kathy YL Chan
    December 19, 2008

    Hey Kat!hehe, it was a good looong lunch! :)Hey Gastro888!I’ll try get to huli-huli chicken if there’s time…so much to eat and not enough days! ^_^Hey Jen!Oh man, do you know if we can get ho dduk in NYC? I’d kill for another when it gets REALLY cold!Hey Katie!Haha, I had no idea Obama used to work at that Baskin Robbins! That’s where we got all our family birthday cakes growing up, lol. Mana Bu’s is definitely worth a stop on your next trip back! :)Hey Yvo!Fresh mochi is grouped in the catagory of “things I miss most about Hawai’i”…I’ll have to convince someone in NYC to open up a fresh mochiya!! ^_^Hey Kirk!Efficient allocation is the goal! ;)Hey Cassaendra!We got to Mana Bu’s at 11am, and nearly half the musubis were sold out…they must be doing something right. Nisshodo is one of the last few fresh local mochi shops left…I hope they stay forever Shall eat plenty! :)Hey Cheesywee!Making it from scratch?! I’m impressed! :) The lunch of cold bibimkook soo followed by the hot and sweet ho dduk was like best combo everrrr ^_^Hey Tamakikat!Mmmmmm yess, I think I’ll bring my grandma back there for lunch tomorrow! :)

  • Marie
    December 19, 2008

    Looks like you’re having a delightful time at home, doesn’t everything else fade away when you’re with family and eating great food? :)

  • Debinhawaii
    December 19, 2008

    I have to say I love when you post about Hawaii. Even though I have lived here for almost 8 years you always give me new ideas and places to go and I see it with fresh eyes! Mahalo,Deb

  • anonymous
    December 20, 2008

    These all looks so tasty! I wish we could get that kind of mochi variety in new york!

  • anonymous
    December 20, 2008

    Wow, your mom is amazing! Now I know where your love for food comes from :-)

  • Kathy YL Chan
    December 21, 2008

    Hey Marie!No other words could be more true :) Any and all stress and worries evaporated somewhere on the plane ride between NYC and Honolulu :)Hey Deb!Thanks for the comments, such kind words ^-^Danny!Me too! Fresh mochi here is so much cheaper than the pre-packaged ones in NYC. Most pieces were $.50-$.70 each! :)Mitzy!My mom is pretty awesome!! ^_^

  • anonymous
    January 8, 2009

    Oh those magic rice cracker things are called bbungteegee, cuz when they shoot out, it makes a BBUNG sound.i love those things. they have one of those machines in h-mart in nj, if u ever have a craving.

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