I'm on a mission to find all the elements necessary to make a stunning Pinkberry concoction in my own home (at a savings too!). One of our favorite toppings is the mochi balls ("rice cakes" Pinkberry calls them).
So I put the baby in the car and we drove to the Mitsuwa Marketplace in San Gabriel to find sutible mochi. (We called ourselves "Mochi Hunters.")
San Gabriel is a 15 minute drive from Highland Park/Eagle Rock which for us was no big deal. A nice drive on a sunny weekend day actually. The San Gabriel Mitsuwa is a moderate sized version of the prominent Japanese markets in LA. This location is bigger than the typical Mexican markets in Highland Park but smaller than a large grocery store. (To wit: this Mitsuwa has a video store and a home appliance section in addition to many food isles.)
As I got the baby into a shopping cart I was greeted by smiles and hellos from the Mitsuwa clients who were speaking in Japanese to each other outside the market. From the Japanese I remember it was clear they were dishing about a family friend... But to me it was a very nice and welcome introduction ... and transported me back to Tokyo when I was a boy.
I felt a little weird going to a Japanese market mainly for what would be considered dessert or candy. So we perused every isle in the market. The vegetable section is small but filled with the basics of Japanese cooking. And everything looked great and fresh as can be. Presentation here is good too. Next to the produce is a "deli" section with marinated food (plums, beans, fish cakes), tofu, to go potstickers and the like. In the back of the store is a to-go sushi section and a small bakery section.
I grabbed a box of Japanese style curry and a package of tofu -- so I was a real grocery shopper now! The candy and cookie ilse was stocked with lots of chocolates, gummies and the like. But the only mochi type candy they had was the Botan Rice Candy which I remember being bored by as a kid. Botan is a cube of sweet mochi flavored orange and, at $0.89 a package, is not expensive but is not cheap enough for my Pinkberry project.
So I asked a cashier for help findingmochi candy and was told that they had nothing but the Botan. However she suggested I try the Sugimotoya soft candy which are flavored like either red beans or green tea. The candy is fine (mild actually) but isn't quite what I was looking for.
I grabbed some Kasugai Kiwi gummy candies and Calpico yogurt drink for old time sake and checked out. In the end, I didn't find what I wanted but I did leave with $17 of yummy treats and surprises. A fun trip and a cool store, especially for a favorite Japanese food or candy item. Certainly a great store for specifically Japanese food.
Cost: All prices seem very reasonable
Taste: A diverse range of good food.
Experience: One of the best Japanese markets in LA.
Find a Mitsuwa Marketplace Location near you.
San Gabriel Store
515 W Las Tunas Drive
San Gabriel, CA 91776
9:00AM - 8:00PM