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

Uchida credits the younger members of her kitchen crew with dreaming up the shop’s non-traditional flavors—mochi filled with white chocolate or a small, square bite of brownie, for instance. The newest addition to the treat lineup is a grape mochi, with an encased whole grape that bursts in your mouth as you bite into the mochi. Uchida was also working on a mochi creation using tangy pohā berries grown on a farm in Waimea.

Not all Two Ladies mochi ideas have come quickly or become permanent. An experiment with taro mochi turned slimy a day out. It’s no longer offered. Uchida searched two years for a butter mochi recipe that met her high standards before one of her kitchen workers came up with one. She’s also considering customer requests for a ginger mochi and a mochi treat filled with strawberry shortcake.

Pre-orders are highly recommended as the shop's daily mochi supply usually sells out.

“Everybody gives me ideas,” Uchida says, still forming perfectly shaped strawberry mochi. “But you can’t use every one.”

Even at peak production, the kitchen at Two Ladies resembles more of a social club than a business, with workers chatting and laughing while stirring pots of mochi paste or shaping mochi balls. Everyone calls Nora “Mrs. Uchida”—a respect thing. Uchida’s parents are “Grandma” and “Grandpa.” Her 92-year-old father, Toshiyasu, makes deliveries in his old Toyota truck.

Customers regularly suggest that Uchida expand the business. Open up a Two Ladies Kitchen on O‘ahu, some say. Mail the shop’s mochi to California, others urge. Sell Two Ladies mochi wholesale to large retailers, a few advise. Uchida says she’s not really interested, desiring instead to keep Two Ladies Kitchen small and manageable, and control the quality of her products and presentation.

“This is enough,” she says, smiling, as the orders keep coming over the phone and the line outside keeps growing. “Really, this is enough.” 

Two Ladies Kitchen

274 Kilauea Ave., Hilo, Big Island • (808) 961-4766

Photos: James Rubio for HAWAII Magazine

(This feature was originally published in the November/December 2013 issue of HAWAII Magazine.)

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