3.22.2010

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

9 comments:

  1. Mmmm. I've never heard of this stuff, but it totally reminds me of mochi, except way more exciting than normal!

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  2. Hi, Arianna. Thank you for visiting! It is very similar/same as mochi. I think the difference is that mochi is not filled, and manju is.

    If I'm incorrect, readers, please correct me! Thanks! :)

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  3. I love discovering new sweets like this. I've never heard of them, either. They're so pretty!

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  4. Japaneses are always so creative with the way they do their sweets. Great post, glad you enjoyed the manju!

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  5. Hi, whisk-kid! The array of colors is so inviting and cheerful, isn't it? I am glad you enjoyed the post. Love your name, btw. And thanks for visiting! I'm in awe of your blog. :)

    Patty: Thanks for your comments and welcome to Dishy Goodness!

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  6. So beautiful! I need to find this shop the next time I'm down there. I have always (mistakenly) called bean filled confections mochi, now I know better!

    I love the photos, as always :) I would love to shadow you one day as you shoot!

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  7. Hi, Liren! I used to think mochi had a filling, too, so you're in good company. :) Would be wonderful to meet you one day soon! My shooting is a lot of trial and error. These photos were taken before I took the Tartelette class, so there are things I definitely would have done differently if I'd known!

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  8. Nice article, Donna! Actually, mochi, as noted by you, is sweet white rice cake. It *can* be filled, as in the case of the kiku (ding-ding! that's the name!), with sweet bean paste or unfilled. I like my plain mochi pan-fried and served with a sugar and shoyu sauce. It can also be boiled and served rolled in kinako, a roasted soy bean flour. My dad likes it like this. Also included in that assortment, which I forgot to point out, were the ultrasweet dark brown ones with the shiny gelatinous tops. These are yokan, made of red azuki bean paste and kanten (agar agar). The kanten is also used in the other shiny ones. Anyway glad you enjoyed and thanks for featuring these delectables on DG!

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