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Mochi, bingsu, milk bread, oh my! Asian dessert shops on the rise in Honolulu

bingsu jejubing Korean shave ice
Jessica Yung
Jessica Yung, a student in Honolulu, captures her bingsu jejubing Korean shave ice at Ala Moana.

Many stores closed during the pandemic — while others thrived.

Five new Asian dessert concept chains opened at Ala Moana Center over the past two years. Stretching from Taiwanese to Korean delicacies, Jejubing, Mango Mango, Yomie's Rice x Yogurt, 85°C Bakery and Meet Fresh all incorporate unique flavors from across the Pacific.

Ania Kalbarczyk, the general manager of 85°C Bakery Cafe, said the international chain opened at Ala Moana Center in Nov. 2022.

"We were never hesitant to begin with. We knew that we would do great here. We have a lot of flavors here that gear towards a lot of the flavor profiles Hawaiians tend to go for," said Kalbarczyk.

According to Kalbarczyk, most of the customers who frequent the Asian sweet shops are local. She said that she's met neighbor island customers who fly in and buy 'mountains of bread' to take home.

Jessica Yung, a student and frequent customer of Asian dessert shops like Mango Mango and Jejubing, said she gets her taste from her parents who prefer Asian sweets over American treats.

"Something my parents always liked about Asian desserts over American desserts were that Asian desserts were not as sweet, so I think I've sort of also adopted their way of thinking, and I prefer Asian desserts because they're not as sweet as American desserts," Yung told HPR.

Yung recommends the egg waffles from Meet Fresh, injeolmi toast from Jejubing and any of the shave ice options from Mango Mango.

Asian sweet shops have been a staple of Ala Moana since the opening of Patisserie La Palme D’or, a Japanese and French bakery, in 2006.

Hawaiʻi is not the only place where Asian desserts are booming. According to restaurant information company Datassential, mochi is one of the fastest growing dessert trends. They report that about 40% of U.S. consumers are looking to try more 'ethnic' flavors.

Zoe Dym is a news producer at Hawaiʻi Public Radio.
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