Fugetsu-Do, Little Tokyo: Mangia Manju

Seven varieties of manju from Fugetsu-Do

My new friend Tawni surprised me with a little box of manju recently! That was so sweet of her, considering I'd only known her for about two weeks! I will admit that I don't know much -- okay, pretty much nothing --about manju. Tawni brought them back from Fugetsu-Do in LA's Little Tokyo district. Fugetsu-Do is a legendary Japanese sweets shop that has been around for 107 years! This is mind-blowing! You just don't see many family-run small businesses like this anymore.

Manju trioThe shop was started by Seiichi Kito in 1903, and it became a family enterprise. Seiichi's wife Tei and her brother Sakuma worked at the shop, as well, helping to make the confectionery a success. The surprise attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 led to the signing of Executive Order 9066, which required the evacuation of people with Japanese ancestry. By this time, sadly, Tei  had passed away, and Seiichi was a single father to seven children. He liquidated their inventory and was interned at Heart Mountain, Wyoming. His son, Roy, and his wife, Kazuko, revived the business after the war ended, and it is Roy's youngest son, Brian, who runs the shop today.

Adzuki bean manju?

I had to research what manju was exactly. I had a vague idea that it was some sort of Japanese sweet. Traditional Japanese sweets are called wagashi. Mochi is made of pounded glutinous rice. It has a soft but chewy texture. Manju has a flour-based exterior that is usually filled with a sweet bean paste made from the red adzuki bean, but not always. Manju can be steamed or baked. Mochi and manju are very popular gifts for the holidays, such as New Year's Day.

(L)Adzuki bean inside a white bun; (R) beautiful green manju
I apologize for not knowing the exact type of each manju you see here. Hopefully, Tawni will help me with recalling the flavors. Based on what I found in my research, I think I had a couple pieces with adzuki bean paste and a couple with a white bean paste (possibly lima bean?). Biting into the marshmallow-like manju is like biting into a super-smooth, fluffy pillow of toothsome sweetness with a surprise inside.

Jelly-like manju
I love the color and variety of manju. The Japanese aesthetic regarding food, art and design is something that I've always admired. There is a beautiful simplicity and artistry in the way food is prepared and presented.

Green and white manju

My favorite sweet of the seven I received was the white manju with the little green leaf and pink center that you see above. The exterior of the manju was smooth as a baby's bottom, and the texture was light, yet pleasantly dense as you bit into it. The chewy exterior contrasted with the smooth sweet bean paste in the middle. It was very tasty! UPDATE: La Fuji Mama told me that she thinks my favorite is called kiku (chrysanthemum). So lovely. Thanks, Rachael!

Fugetsu-Do manju assortment
Photo by Tawni Araki

Tawni was kind enough to take a few photos for me to include on my blog. The photo above shows the entire selection that she bought at Fugetsu-Do. The colors are so fresh and spring-y. The bottom photo shows the view from the street.

The view from the street

Photo by Tawni Araki

I welcome your comments about manju from Fugetsu-Do. Thank you to Tawni for introducing me to this lovely confection!

P.S. If you are in LA or planning to visit, Six Taste offers food and cultural tours, called "tastings," of Little Tokyo and other neighborhoods in the Los Angeles area. The Little Tokyo tour includes a visit to Fugetsu-Do and a chance to learn about this historic confectionery's influence on the growth of the surrounding community.

Fugetsu-Do Bakery Shop
315 East 1st Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012-3901
(213) 625-8595

Store Hours:
Sunday to Thursday: 8:00 am to 6:00 pm
Friday and Saturday: 8:00 am to 7:00 pm


Tartelette Visits Los Angeles: Food Photography Workshop

Tartelette helps Shawn of Kitchen Fervor with photographing her beautiful tarts

Helene assists Shawn of Kitchen Fervor with photographing her roasted eggplant ricotta poppy seed tarts.

Last Friday, Mr. DG and I drove to LA to make a quick weekend visit to both of our families. It was also the weekend of the food photography class taught by Helene Dujardin, the famed blogger and food photographer of MyTartelette.com.  I have been looking forward to this class since I signed up in January when I luckily saw a tweet by La Fuji Mama that there were still a few places left.  The class was held at the Academy of Culinary Education in Woodland Hills, which is owned by Chef Cecilia Castro. The school offers individual thirty-week professional baking and cooking programs. Graduates of her programs have worked at restaurants such as The French Laundry, Farallon, Chinois and Border Grill. 

A captive audience for Tartelette's tips and suggestions Helene demonstrating with her Canon Mark II. Seen next to her are Jen of Devour the World, Carrie of Deliciously Organic, Gaby of What's Gaby Cooking, Rachael of La Fuji Mama, Jenny of Picky Palate, and Shawn of Kitchen Fervor.

Helene emphasized that it is important to use the equipment that you are most comfortable using. A high-end pro camera is not necessary to capture beautiful photos. Knowing how to use your camera to achieve the photo you want is a process of discovery. The suggestions she made were not revolutionary, just common sense -- but, of course, I hadn't thought of any of them! Such as - practice taking photos starting at the largest aperture and closing it down in increments of one stop per image so you can see how the aperture affects each photo.

Canon comparison

Canon shooters deep in thought: Jenny, Rachael, Gaby and Marla of Family Fresh Cooking.

Helene suggested using a white board, reflector or a mirror to illuminate the subject's foreground, especially if using tricky back lighting. Using a reflector to bounce light back on the subject helps to brighten what would be the darkest side of the object. Below she is helping Rachael fill in the shadows using a compact mirror and a white board.

Tartelette, Helene Dujardin, lends a hand to Rachael of La Fuji Mama

I think the majority or all of the food bloggers in the photography class cook recipes at home and document them on their blog. I do plan on doing that with Dishy Goodness in the near future, but so far, the emphasis of my posts has been restaurant reviews. Since I'm usually taking photos of plated food at a restaurant, I don't have much experience with styling my own food or using props, linens, etc. It was definitely a new experience for me, and I look forward to improving my food styling with the tips Helene provided.

My first attempts at working linens and props into my food photos

I bought random linens from Stein Mart and Marshall's and tried some different color combos before settling upon the pale green solid napkin and geometric grass green and white napkins. Between work and the two-hour trip to LA, I didn't have time to cook or bake anything for the class, much less think of how to transport it from Indio to Woodland Hills. So I purchased gourmet chocolate chip pecan cookies to use as my subject. The white dishes are my own -- part of the Villeroy Boch "Dune" dinnerware we received for wedding gifts. Helene suggested that coffee or some beverage in the empty cup would complete the montage, but for a first go at working with props, I think I have a good start. Lots of practice is sure to come!

And a few more shots trying to incorporate Tartelette's suggestions

Thank you, Rachael, Jen and Gaby for organizing this class with Helene! And thank you, Helene, for flying out from Charleston to teach this class (and two macaron classes, as well!). It was great to meet other people as addicted to food and cooking -- and blogging about it -- as I am!

My fellow classmates were as follows:
Brianne - www.chefbri.com

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