You may be familiar with mochi in some form. In Japan, it's traditionally a cake made from rice formed into a paste and molded into a specific shape. Mochi ice cream has become increasingly popular as well and is sold at grocery stores like Trader Joe's and Whole Foods. Not as well known, although very familiar to Hawaiians, is butter mochi, a sponge cake of sorts made from flour, coconut, sugar, eggs and other ingredients that's served as a dessert.
"It's definitely something that people don't really know about. They might know mochi, but Hawaiian mochi is a little something different," says Brendan Wong, founder of Island Mochi.
Wong is an Arizona State University student majoring in nursing. He is originally from Hawaii and loves to bake and cook and was experimenting with making butter mochi from his family's recipe this summer as well as Chichi Dango, a type of Japanese mochi. After getting some positive feedback, the idea for the Island Mochi business was born.
"As school got closer, I started thinking like, 'Why don't I just bring this to Arizona and see how people like it?' and I just started it when I came back in mid August," Wong says.
Wong bakes the butter mochi at his apartment in downtown Phoenix. He also puts together packages of butter mochi and Chichi Dango for people to mix together themselves at home. Those last longer than the fresh butter mochi and are able to be shipped across the country.
It's certainly a change from Wong's usual studies but a very welcome one.
"Nursing is very different than baking mochi and going for the business route, but it's something that I got really interested in and am trying to juggle a little bit of both," says Wong. "It's kind of nice to do it on the side and also nursing. It's a really big change, because I'm studying for all my nursing classes, and then I usually bake on Sundays and take all the orders during the week."
Although the business has only been up and running for about a month, Wong is already getting the word out and is in touch with local coffeeshops and ice cream parlors. In Hawaii, Wong partnered with a gelato shop, and they served his mochi cut up into small bits and incorporated into their gelato, so a similar partnership in Arizona would be nice. Besides the networking around town, Wong says the best part has been connecting with fellow Hawaiians.
"I've been able to reach some of the Hawaiian people who have moved to Arizona," Wong says. "I just want people to try the butter mochi, because I know that for me, back in Hawaii, a lot of people know what mochi is, so it's easy for them to know it's just a different type of mochi, but definitely the mochi I am making is something I really pride myself on, and the flavor is very fresh."
Pickup takes place on Sundays from 12 to 2 p.m in downtown Phoenix. A pack of 8 pieces is available for pickup as well as both mixes, and there's delivery within 10 miles. There's no charge for delivery orders over $30, but there is a $20 delivery fee if your order is less than $35. Delivery is done on Sundays, but contact Island Mochi if you need another time scheduled. Order online and get more information at islandmochi.square.site.