Interview: Bringing Japanese culture, Ichigo Daifuku
Interviewer: What is the background of the Ichigo (strawberry) daifuku? And why is it culturally significant?
Chef Misuzu: Daifuku is a very traditional Japanese sweet that Mochi and Anko (red bean paste) inside it, but Ichigo daifuku also comes with strawberry. The product is typically being sold around spring when cherry blossoms bloom in Japan because strawberries are also being harvested in the same season. For that reason, We see the product around that time every year. Ichigo daifuku used to be a seasonal product at Suzuya as well which is not sold year-round.
Interviewer: What made you decide to make the Ichigo daifuku, and why is it different from making are products such as cakes?
Chef Misuzu: 5 or 6 years ago, We wanted to have it for the seasonal items, just like what we do for some other products. Since I like the Ichigo daifuku so much, and I always wanted to make the item in the spring, we started selling the item in just two days in March. We received a lot of positive comments from customers about the particular product, even if that was just for two days. Then Japanese customers who originally knew the product in their home never stopped asking us, “When are you guys are going to make the Ichigo daifuku?” Gradually we expanded the time we sell the product from two days to a week, and so forth. But people still never stopped asking us about the product, so now we try to make the Ichigo daifuku for all seasons. We later found out that it’s not only Japanese people but also local American customers who like the item. We were very surprised by the fact that American people who had never had the Ichigo daifuku before loved our product. That’s how Ichigo daifuku became one of our popular items. One of the differences from the traditional style is that we add whipping cream into the daifuku. I like the harmony of whipping cream and Anko. In general, Japanese and European ingredients match very well for some reasons. I like the combination of Japanese traditional sweets and the little flavor of European ingredients. I do think that this whipped cream has created more popularity among customers who had never tried the product before. Since mochi became more popular with mochi ice cream, now American people also recognize it, and they actually like the texture.
Interviewer: That’s amazing. Do you guys have any plans on expanding the Japanese sweets department?
Chef Misuzu: Yes, now we want to make “Dorayaki” and Castella cake. Dorayaki is almost ready to start selling. When we started our business at Suzuya, I used to make the product. But we need a bigger kitchen for making Castella cakes since it takes so much space. It is great for gifting. The cake needs to be refrigerated, unlike Dorayaki or Castella which relatively lasts longer at normal temperature.
Interviewer: You are obviously born and raised in Japan, and is it nice to have a business with Mike just like this Ichigo daifuku?
Chef Misuzu: You had a good point! I agree with that. I never thought about it that way, though.
Chef Mike: I like Japanese things such as Anko and Matcha, and the European whipping cream makes it more attractive and approachable to American people who are fans of sweetener tastes.