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At the Market: ​Mochi Lab

It’s the sweet treat reminiscent of potlucks at the beach and family gatherings at relatives’ houses. But this ain’t your average butter mochi.


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An assortment of butter mochi by Mochi Lab, one of the vendors at farmers markets on O‘ahu serving innovative takes on the popular treat.
Photos: Jaclyn Saito

 

Can you have the best of both worlds? Let’s put Mochi Lab to the test.

 

A sweet surprise in the center of every cupcake-shaped piece of butter mochi? Check. Mochi, fillings and custards made from scratch? Check. Use of local ingredients? Check. Gluten free? Check. Ding ding ding, we have a winner.

 

Although the company has a long list of delicious flavors that include matcha with azuki bean, Mango Tango and salted caramel already in its back pocket, it’s not stopping there. Constantly experimenting with new flavors, Mochi Lab strives to introduce a new flavor at least every other week.

 

“We have five experiments going on at once, testing out different recipes, so our kitchen looks like a lab,” says Ashlee Taniyama, who owns Mochi Lab with her husband, Ippei.

 

Currently the Mochi Lab only sells its mochi at farmers markets, where it changes up the menu, selling a mix of five to six of its signature mochi flavors each day.

 

The various flavors of butter mochi sold at Mochi Lab, a vendor at four farmers markets on O‘ahu.

 

Our favorite was the chantilly. The chantilly custard in the middle was delicious and added to the flavor of the mochi. Plus, the crunchy macadamia nuts on top adds a nice texture to the mochi. The mochi isn’t overly sweet, so you don’t have to make a beeline for the dentist after eating one.

 

The batter is more on the cakey side, so it’s not quite as heavy as regular butter mochi. These delicious treats can be addicting, so take it slow before you end up in a butter mochi-induced food coma.

 

The couple visited Hawaiʻi on vacation four years ago where they tried butter mochi for the first time. Instantly, they were hooked. One year later, they made the move from Brooklyn, New York to Hawaiʻi.

 

In New York, Ashlee worked as an executive assistant and Ippei worked in the film industry, and, coming to Hawaiʻi, they had no idea what they would do for work. While they loved making butter mochi, they were unsure of how to make a business out of it, so it remained a hobby. One day, while watching the news, they saw local vendor that sold mochi at a farmers market. A lightbulb went off. They started applying to be a vendor in farmers markets across Oʻahu, all the while creating new, innovative recipes to bring to the Hawaiʻi market.

 

Since starting their first farmers market venture in July 2015 at the Waikīkī Farmers Market (which has since closed), they’ve moved on to four other locations at the Honolulu Farmers Market at Neal S. Blaisdell Center on Wednesday nights, the Kailua Farmers Market on Thursday nights, the Aloha Tower Farmers Market on Friday nights and the FarmLovers Farmers Markets in Pearlridge on Saturday mornings.

 

They hope to one day open up a storefront, but with their hands filled with the four farmers markets, they don’t see one in the near future. With a brick-and-mortar location, they would expand their products, introducing mochi cakes, pies and other products.

 

1 for $3, 2 for $5, special price on bulk orders, mochilab808.com

 

At the Market is an occasional feature that showcases the vendors at Hawai‘i’s farmers markets.

 

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