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Mana Bu's Hana Hou

The principles of a macrobiotic diet continue to thrive over at Mana Bu’s – Hawaii’s Musubi Headquarters. I was a bit perplexed to find them closed on Saturday at 1pm (after I left the Portuguese Festa), when come to find out by a sign posted on the front door, they had already sold out. Wow!

The word is obviously out on the wonderful Musubi, salads and sweets at this specialized Onigiri Boutique shop, as when I arrived yesterday (Sunday) right about when they opened, the place had a considerable line!…

According to a gal shopping (yes, shopping) who claims to be a daily regular, she said sometimes there’s a line formed in front even before they open the door for business. Unreal.

This is the man himself, Manabu Asaoka, and his lovely wife Fumiyo…

Manabu Asaoka and his lovely wife, Fumiyo

By the time I walked in the door at just about 15 minutes after opening, that line of folks had already made good work of the selections…

This is a new shelf added into the establishment (on the front window side), which looks to be stocked with Mana Bu’s best-selling Musubi selections…

The perfectionist inside of me wanted to “face” the shelves (bring everything to the front) for the shot, but I don’t think customers (or Manabu and his wife) would appreciate another customer (myself) touching all the goods like that.

Manabu san did mention to me having customers both from the mainland and locally who mentioned this blog as their reference in discovering it. Nice.

Let’s take a closer look at the selections on this beautiful Sunday morning…

It’s so easy to choose with those descriptive sign cards!

Oh my, the Musubi choices!

Whichever ones you choose, by all means, as a side dish, if the Teri Corn is still available (if you’re lucky) when you get there, DO get that!…

So ono. Sugoi oishii desu!

Then there’s the salads…

Tofu & Broccoli with Sesame

Curry Potato & Edamame (soy bean) Salad…

Green Papaya Salad…

The steam obscured the contents in this photo, but the gal I spoke with in the shop gave testament that this Udon Tofu Udon salad is fantastic…

Speaking of steam, upon the time of my early (yet already busy) arrival, many items on the shelf were still warm, indicating they had just come off the production line. Doesn’t get fresher than that.

That same gal also swore by this Kabocha Nishime (I’m so getting this on my next visit)…

Spicy Shoyu Edamame (soy beans)…

Sweet Potato and Grandma’s Huki…

French Beans & Sesame…

Then there’s the sweets, such as this Red Bean Zensai with Mochi and Coconut Pudding…

Thumbs-up were given for this Strawberry Milk Pudding as well…

Steamed Muffins…

I swear I could have filled two baskets, and wanted to with all this deliciousness! Yet, I only chose what I could eat for the day, as I don’t believe in 2nd-day old Musubi that came out of the refrigerator. It’s gotta’ be eaten the day it’s made at room temperature for best texture. I could stock-up on the salads though, which I’ll do next time.

That being said, here’s my selections on this visit…

Teri Corn, $1.20

Oh-my-God.. this the most killer Corn-on-the-Cob. So delicious!

Spicy Takuan Musubi, $1.50

That looks like Ume, but it’s not. It’s red peppers…

How is this one? Excellent. To be honest, I kept thinking I was going to biting into Ume, even though I knew it was red peppers. Kind of a curve ball effect, but still, a winner!

Kombu Musubi with Brown Rice, $1.50

How is this one? Very nice. The kombu has a pronounced “sea” flavor, whereas the Hijiki version has more resemblance to the familiar Nori. It’s amazing how Manabu San is able to cook that brown rice to just the right point of stickiness. It doesn’t fall apart like you’d expect it to. He also salts the rice just right.

Shoyu Gobo Pilaf Musubi, $1.50

How is this one? Oishii desu. Again, the rice is salted perfectly, while the tender, robust Gobo and sweet carrot offer a savoriness to the whole package. Nice, nice, nice.

I also got the Okinawan Sweet Potato and Macadamia Nut Salad…

Okinawan Sweet Potato and Macadamia Nut Salad, $2.00

Just $2 bucks? Are you kidding me?! I swear, you could put this on a beautiful plate in a fine dining restaurant and charge $15 for it. This, my friends, ROCKS! The very light coating of Best Foods Mayonnaise, along with the corn, peas, and nuttiness of the Macadamia Nuts topping those tender, sweet purple potatoes is pure genius, yet so simple. I love, love, love this dish!

Finally for dessert, I got one each of the Apple Banana Mochi and Maui Strawberry Mochi…

Look at how perfectly dusted it is. Again, a showcase of the Japanese tradition in quality and attention to detail.

Let’s look how the Banana Mochi looks in a cross section…

Apple Banana Mochi, $1.50

I’m not normally a Mochi fan, but now I am. lol Seriously, the mochi is so soft and silky, while the coolness of the fresh, slightly tangy banana in it marry beautifully. It’s also not too sweet, which is always a good thing.

The Maui Strawberry Mochi…

Maui Strawberry Mochi, $2.00

As much as I love Japanese food, I’m also not really an Azuki bean fan, but now I am. lol Seriously, that legume-flavored quality of the Azuki (red bean) mochi on the inside, combined with the more neutral plain mochi surrounding it, along with the tangy-sweet strawberry inside is another case of pure genius. Totally diggin’ this one.

What a delicious, light and healthy lunch. I wish Mana Bu’s were closer to my work place and/or open longer so I could get some every day on my way home. I’m thinking of going on a “Mana Bu’s Macrobiotic Diet”. While I consider myself to be in pretty good shape, like most of us, I could stand to lose a few pounds.

I just love Mana Bu’s. So much that I recommended Zero Point Zero Productions (producers of Anthony Bordain’s ‘No Reservations’) stop by there and do a segment on the place. They’ll be in Hawaii filming at the end of the month for their PBS television show titled, Gourmet’s Diary of a Foodie. I’m sure Emily will take my word and at least stop by for a bite to eat.

Just keep in mind, the word is out, and so will the Musubi and other treats be if you don’t arrive early. It’s that good.

Mana Bu’s
Hawaii’s Musubi Headquarters
1618 King St
Honolulu, HI 96813
(808) 945-2323

Business Hours:
Tuesday – Sunday 10:30am to 2:30pm (or until everything is sold out)

The Tasty Island rating:

(5) Superb. Worthy of repeat visits or purchases. (Broke Da’ Mout’!)

Related Links:

Mana Bu’s – For the Best Musubi Ever – Photos by Jalna
Musubi Mania at Mana Bu’s – The Tasty Island
Musubis have ‘Mana’ – The Honolulu Star Bulletin

22 thoughts on “Mana Bu's Hana Hou

  • September 22, 2008 at 9:56 pm

    hey pomai:

    As usual, your pictures and connoisseur discriptions are an inspiration to us all. keep it up.


  • September 22, 2008 at 10:28 pm

    I’m one of those who mentioned your original Mana Bu’s post as incentive to visit. I did my own writeup on our blog, too.

    Man, I wish he had some of that apple banana mochi when I was there.

    He’s going to have to get some help to keep that line short.

  • September 23, 2008 at 2:39 am

    I gotta check out dis place next time I’m home!!!! LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the pics and descriptions in your blog. MAHALO!!!

  • September 23, 2008 at 4:20 am

    Oh, looks so good–I can’t wait to go back!
    BTW, is the husband or wife the chef? I thought they told us it was the wife, but maybe there was a misunderstanding?

  • September 23, 2008 at 12:15 pm

    I think you have easily surpassed Ono Kine Grindz as THE spokesman for the local stuff available! Keep it going!

  • September 23, 2008 at 5:57 pm

    Their musubis rocks. Now into their desserts and see they got interesting mochis and muffins. I like low fat muffins and been trying to stay in shape and now days is very importants for all.

  • September 23, 2008 at 6:04 pm

    Their banana mochis and coffee jello is my favorite. Going back for their sweet potato mac.nut salad. Like to try different kind desserts saw the coconut mochi pudding and strawberry milk pudding.

  • September 23, 2008 at 8:00 pm

    Their items are beautifully presented. I wonder how much time it takes them to wrap all those musubi inside that perfectly triangular plastic?

    I can’t get over how low their prices are. I hope they won’t grow too fast and raise prices before I get a chance to visit!

  • September 23, 2008 at 9:17 pm

    After I read your post last time, I went that day in the afternoon opening, right at 4. Hardly had anything left yah? Then after your blog… it showed up like twice in the newspapers a few weeks ago. OH nooooo more people will know about the great stuff there! So then I go again like 2 weeks ago.. earlier this time, like 12noon…… had more stuff, but not really…no okazuya stuff left (already???)… we took the last 2 banana mochi, the last corn, but I figured I’m lucky since last time never even have that!

    Wait in line, finally get to Manabu-san. Tell him, whoa… I came earlier this time and wow, plenny stuff gone already!! Again, he’s so sweetly apologetic. Said he gotta get help now, but help cost more money etc….. hard to balance. Hehe.. I had to stop myself from saying that I can help! Haha… so I can learn how to make the good stuff for when they run out, I still can make ‘um myself! They are so busy, there is no “afternoon” opening anymore cuz they run out so fast! Amazing!

  • September 23, 2008 at 9:35 pm

    It great the musubis for my lunch and pick enough for my day off. Enjoy their steam muffins. Will be there first in line next time.

  • September 23, 2008 at 9:47 pm

    Danny, thanks! Just dropped by to see your Monterey blog.. some interesting grinds and sights as well! Will dig through deeper and leave comments later.

    Nate-n-Annie, ah, was you. Surely you must have also stopped by Waiola Shave Ice to reminisce that classic moment!

    CP, I bet a place like this would VERY WELL in your neck-of-the-woods!

    Napua, by all means, yes, put Mana Bu’s on your must-do list when you return home. And go early!

    Robyn, on all the visits I’ve made there so far, Fumiyo San was usually in the kitchen, with Manabu San running the front. Only on this last visit, because it was so busy, Fumiyo San was in the front helping with customer service. Yet she was still juggling duties in back as well.

    Nate, you’re too kind. Really though, Reid is, and always will be the pioneer that started it all. As you may know, he’s redesigning Ono Kine Grindz, and making another site for his world travels as well, which are also fantastic.

    Michale, amen to that. Rock ‘n roll for sure!

    Amy, you won’t be disappointed with the sweet potato mac salad. I still can’t believe that’s just $2.00. Surprisingly, although the portion looks small, it’s rather filling. That and a Musubi and you should be good. The gal I spoke with said her daughter’s favorite item in the whole shop is the Stawberry Milk Pudding, so there’s an endorsement there! I too was tempted to buy that one, but opted for the Mochi.

    Jenny, you have to wonder how much extra time it takes just to wrap them so nicely with that clear plastic. Each one very uniform to the next. Fumiyo san must be good at making Origami and gift wrapping. Even if they raised their prices 50 cents to a dollar each higher, it would still be a good value. But, sshhhhhh, we like it the way it is now!

    Mahalo all for the visit here!

  • September 24, 2008 at 7:00 am

    Your close up pictures so awesome, almost forgot it was on my computer, wanted to take a bite!

  • September 24, 2008 at 8:37 am

    I looove your hana hou post of Mana Bu’s. I was there today (again) and Manabu mentioned that you were there this past Saturday and that you took choke pictures. I am so happy that they’re doing well, and I am certain that your blog has a lot to do with their success. I don’t mind that I have to wait in line now and that some of my favorite items are sold out early. I just feel good inside that this sweet couple’s hard work is paying off. Thank you, pomai.

  • September 24, 2008 at 2:28 pm

    Wow, they should franchise! That sweet potato salad looks amazing. I’m putting this place on the top of my list when I’m back home! I had to stop eating at the musubi place here in NYC because 3 musubis cost $10! And I’m still hungry after!!!

  • September 25, 2008 at 12:08 am

    They are so sweet, altho I kinda joked about working to help them so i can still get the good stuff, I am happy for their success, they deserve it! I do hope they do get someone to help them so they don’t have to work as hard. I love the fact that it is inexpensive (I agree, they could raise the prices and it would still be a great deal!), and that they tell you everything that is in the item! Inexpensive healthy is great! Usually for healthier stuff you gotta pay a whole lot more!

    I went back to read my post and it sounded kinda bad! Sorry! That was not my intent at all! I’m just amazed that they run out so fast hee hee…

  • September 25, 2008 at 12:42 am

    Cree, I hear you on them needing extra help, and that’s almost certainly a requirement if they plan to to expand their hours in order to keep up with the inventory needed to supply that duration.

    Have you heard about the recent opening of Nijiya Market in Puck’s Alley?

    Jalna got some great photos inside the place here at this post:

    Apparently they feature organic rice in their bento boxes. I wonder if Mana Bu’s will start carrying an organic line of musubi?

    Speaking of organic, I’ve heard Whole Foods in Kahala is a nice store with plenty of interesting and unique products, but VERY expensive.

    Cecelia, actually $10 for 3 musubi is what I’d almost expect to pay at Mana Bu’s (again, don’t tell him I said that!) considering the quality of ingredients and care put into making each one. Of course, we like it priced just the way they are now!

    Jalna, your photography continues to amaze and inspire. Great job on your site!

  • September 25, 2008 at 3:07 pm

    Amazing blog, my favorite food blog of the Oahu, keep up the good work!
    I definitely want to go there to eat musubi & try their desserts, they look so good. I never would have heard of this place if it wasn’t for this blog entry, now I have worked up an appetite.

  • September 26, 2008 at 6:08 am

    Pomai, just love your posts! I am so glad that you were diplomatic to say that Reid is/will be returning! He is the first in island food blogging and hope he will be back. There can NEVER be enough of you guys bringing us the joy of island cuisine. And brah, you are up there also. Thank-you!

  • September 26, 2008 at 6:59 pm

    Oh my…how did I miss this place??! I was there visiting ohana for 3 weeks and missed this ono-licious place!! Great photos and coverage as always!

  • September 26, 2008 at 8:35 pm

    Your pictures taunt me. I had planned to visit Mana Bu during my visit earlier this month, and had it scheduled towards the end of the trip. The night I went to Alan Wong, I got off the bus at Kalakaua and King, and instantly saw Mana Bu. I knew they were closed, but I thought I’d check out their hours. Unfortunately, they didn’t work out with the remainder of my schedule, so, sadly (especially now that I’ve seen the sweet potato/macadamia nut salad) I had to let it go.

    Next trip!!! Swear!!!

  • October 26, 2008 at 8:23 pm




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