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Monumental Mochi: A morning at Hilo's famous Two Ladies Kitchen

“When we first started, it was only us,” Uchida says. “Only family. That’s it.”

Uchida had been a full-time elementary-school teacher when she decided she needed to learn how to make her Aunt Tomi’s mochi.

“I knew it was an art. That it was much more than just mochi,” says Uchida.

Strawberry mochi is the shop's bestseller.

Nearly every Saturday for the next two years, Uchida ensconced herself in her Aunt Tomi’s kitchen to learn proper mochi-making technique. Whatever they made, they gave away. Soon, people began urging Uchida to open a mochi shop.

Two Ladies Kitchen began with Uchida churning out seven varieties of mochi treats (strawberry included) and three varieties of manju, a sweet, baked Japanese pastry, in a small commercial kitchen. A year later, with its customer base quickly growing, the shop moved to its current location, in one swoop giving it a storefront on one of Hilo’s busiest streets and doubling kitchen space.

These days, Two Ladies Kitchen offers more than 20 different flavors, colors and creative shapes of mochi treats, from the non-traditional—filled with sweet potato, peanut butter or malted milk balls—to traditional mochi lightly scented with yomogi (mugwort leaf) and filled with azuki bean paste. The shop also sells a half-dozen varieties of manju.

All of the mochi treats at Two Ladies Kitchen are handmade daily by Uchida and her staff.

While most commonly consumed during the New Year’s holiday in Hawai‘i and Japan, mochi, especially here in the Islands, is a year-round snack found in convenience stores, in bowls of shave ice or at the bottom of Asian-style bubble-tea drinks. Many consider the mochi treats crafted by Two Ladies Kitchen the best in the Islands, with some residents planning entire Big Island vacations around a stop at the Hilo shop.

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