Get Fancy Omiyage at this Japanese Confectionery at Kāhala Mall
Minamoto Kitchoan opens its second location, selling expensive cookies, mochi and jelly.
One of the best-sellers at Minamoto Kitchoan is the fukuwata senbei, waffle cookies with a sweet filling. The shop, now open at Kāhala Mall, has vanilla, chocolate and matcha flavors.
Photos: Catherine Toth Fox
In Japan, if you get a gift, you give a gift. It is pretty much The Law.
And gift giving can get intense, where you have to guesstimate the price of the gift you’ve received, make sure yours at least matches, looks just as pretty, is given back within an appropriate amount of time. The list goes on.
Minamoto Kitchoan is a confectionery store that’s all about Japanese omiyage culture, with gourmet sweets called wagashi flown from Okayama prefecture.
Last week, it opened its second Hawai‘i branch in Kāhala Mall. It’s a kiosk close to Longs Drugs and Macy’s. It’s smaller than the first Hawai‘i location, which opened in September 2013 at Ala Moana Center, but has all the popular items such as the chocoramikasa (chocolate cream-filled mini pancakes) and ayashirabe (mochi cakes). These wagashi are intricately wrapped in beautiful paper and boxes, which make them perfect gifts to family and friends (or to treat yourself).
We tried an assortment during a media tasting, and our favorite was the fukuwata senbei, waffle cookies ($3 per piece) with a sweet filling. It’s one of the best-selling treats at Minamoto Kitchoan, according to store manager Yayoi Akana. “Fuku means happiness, and fukuwata means to give good luck,” says Akana. The filling flavors come in chocolate, vanilla or matcha. We loved the matcha, a light green tea cream filling sandwiched between two waffle cookies, which are not overly crunchy and lean more toward crumbly. Like most Japanese treats, these cookies aren’t too sweet.
Akana says that Minamoto Kitchoan is most famous for using fresh fruits, as in the bite-size, assorted fruit jellies ($14 to $20), which have flavors that include grace dew, pineapple, banana, mango, muscat, strawberry and raspberry. The specialty item though, is the shimizuhakuto jelly or the white peach gelatin.
“The white peach jelly is made using special techniques. We pick the perfect, best-quality peaches from our trees grown in Okayama prefecture,” she says. “The peaches are blocked from direct sunlight, and we get rid of ‘bad’ fruits on the tree, so all the nutrition, sweetness and juiciness can be found in one perfect peach. It takes a lot of time. The price may be a little expensive, but if you eat it, you’ll understand why it’s worth it.”
It also sells specialty fruit jelly, including this seasonal peach flavor, which tastes like the real fruit.
So we tried it. While we’re generally not fans of jellies because they are too artificial and overly sweet, the white peach gelatin tastes like you’re biting into the real fruit. It’s, well, peachy. Plus, it looks gorgeous. Each jelly is individually wrapped in white and pink paper, resting on a small mini basket, and, when opened, looks like it’s a peach cut in half. There’s even a gentle warning printed in Japanese on the container: “Some water may escape when opened, so please to enjoy with care.” So much detail!
And yes, the price is expensive. It’s $12 for one jelly, and the boxes range from $25 to $73. But it does make for a thoughtful gift. We suggest you give this to your boss on his or her birthday or your mother-in-law upon first meeting.
Minamoto Kitchoan, Kāhala Mall, 4211 Waiʻalae Ave, 734-2220, kitchoan.com
READ MORE STORIES BY MARIA KANAI