Slimy neba neba, garlicky torched scallops and poke with freshly prepared kim chee bring life to this corner of King Street.
An Old-School Mochi Shop Finds a New Home in McCully
Fujiya Hawai‘i, a longtime fixture in Kalihi, has reopened with a pillowy array of traditional Japanese sweets.
Fujiya Hawai‘i is a holdover from the days when mochi shops dotted the Japanese neighborhoods of Honolulu. A generations-old fixture on Waiakamilo Road in Kalihi, it sat across the canal from Honolulu’s other remaining old-school mochi shop, Nisshodo Candy Store. In recent years, Japan-born Akira Nakajima left his career as an international marketing consultant to take over Fujiya from its founding family. He closed the old shop, found a new spot in McCully, at the corner of Hau‘oli and Algaroba streets in the same lot as Minato Restaurant, and soft-opened the new Fujiya in September.
Sometimes the old man in me yearns for the traditional flavors of days gone by, like mochi made with care and quality. So when I saw on my Instagram feed that Fujiya was reopening I had to get a taste.
SEE ALSO: Your Guide to Mochi in Hawai‘i
I never did visit Fujiya in its prior location, so I enter the new store with few expectations and am pleased to see shelves of imported Japanese fried senbei, nori chips and multiple flavors of iso peanuts. Through a large window, workers make mochi in various colors and flavors: the traditional sweet azuki red bean or white bean paste, and others stuffed with peanut butter and fresh fruit. I pre-ordered a box of assorted mochi, chichi and a few salty snacks online.
It’s like opening a gift: You’re not sure what to expect and anticipation is running high. Inside the box, a row of pillowy white then pink mochi sit next to a third row dusted with kinako, my favorite. A separate box of pink-and-white chichi dango in Fujiya’s new haupia flavor is similarly thrilling.
I eat the kinako mochi first and discover it is filled with crunchy peanut butter. Most mochi around Honolulu let the fillings take centerstage, but Fujiya nicely balances the flavor of the mochi and its various fillings. Even the haupia chichi dango strikes a disciplined, harmonious blend of coconut and mochi.
Not to be overlooked are the snacks from Japan. Both the shoyu iso peanuts package of fried nori I picked up are crisp, light and make me crave a beer with this 10:30 a.m. tasting.
Not only does Fujiya scratch that itch of nostalgia, it is exciting to discover a delicate and mindful craftsmanship in each pillowy morsel.
Fujiya Hawaiʻi is still in soft-opening mode so walk-in customers may not find every flavor advertised on the menu. Pre-ordering several days in advance is strongly recommended, especially for weekends when the store sells out quickly.