Manoa Bake Co. in Costa Mesa Offers a Mochi Baking Mix

Photograph by Michelle Pagaran

Manoa Bake Co., which launched in early 2020, offers a mochi pancake and waffle baking mix that draws inspiration from cofounder Christopher Watanabe’s Japanese-Hawaiian heritage. An addition of rice flour delivers the addictively chewy texture of the traditional dessert. Purchase a set of molds to make mochi donuts at home. $10 per bag. At Fill Bakeshop in Costa Mesa or online at

5 Questions With Cofounder Christopher Watanabe

What is your background?
I worked at my father’s bakery, Watanabe Bakery. Before my father sold his company, we did wholesale bread for hotels and grocery stores in Hawaii. He was a geologist before he became a business owner so I learned most of my technical knowledge of the elements, and how they affect food products from him. I was very fortunate to apply that gift of knowledge to the mochi donuts we made during that time as well.

How would you describe mochi to someone?

On the surface, mochi is a soft, chewy, sticky rice cake that is eaten as an everyday (savory or sweet) treat or for special occasions. Most, if not all Asian cultures have some distinct form of mochi. There is something poetic about the fact that no matter what the country of origin, we can all find common ground and solidarity behind food.

Tell us more about your heritage and how it inspired you to start Manoa.
My mother is from Hawaii and my dad is from Japan. Hawaii is a very ethnically diverse place. No matter what the cultural background, we are exposed to a diverse palette from a young age. We want to share that joy and help our customers experience diversity through the food we make. It’s funny, Manoa was a common point for the people at Manoa Bake Co. A few of us went to high school or college in Manoa so we decided to use a name that would reflect our past.

How did you develop the recipe?
We developed the recipe through trial and error. “A little bit of this and a little bit of that” was the mentality. Since I was able to learn wholesale manufacturing and food science from my father and mentors, I (handled product development) for the team. The recipe took a few months to become a reality.

Any tips on what to bake with the mix?
I would definitely recommend getting some work in with the mochi donuts. They are a really fun activity to do with the kids or friends and family. Seeing what our customers come up with when they get creative is what we love. (During the summer), we (saw) a lot of orders from families who (wanted) to get their kids hooked on baking.

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