Eat & DrinkSF Bay Area

Discovering Mochi Donuts In the Bay Area

Updated: May 18, 2023 07:47
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As a Donut Devotee I take my Donut consumption very seriously (as noted in my previous article, ‘Becoming a Donut Devotee in the Bay Area’). I had been stuck in the same DonutGlazedDaze for many a year.  Although, I frequented different Donut shops in the Bay Area, I always ordered the same type of Donut, a glazed Old-Fashioned, and yes I had to purchase said Donut with coins only, and it had to come from a truly Old-School/Old-Fashioned Donut shop. I steered clear of modern Donut establishments. I had become rigid in my DonutWays.

But last week, by happenstance, my entire DonutWorld spun upside down and aRound! I experienced a huge Donut Paradigm Shift. I haphazardly discovered the… Mochi Donut.

My Donut revelation began when I dropped off my car at my fave Tire Shop, Orozco’s Tires in West Berkeley, to get a rotation. I was hungry, and seeing those giant round holy tires? Trigger pulled! I had maybe 30 minutes to kill. I pulled out my iPhone. Siri didn’t reprimand me when, once again I asked him to find “Donuts Near Me”. What’s this Siri? “Third Culture Bakery”? I skipped down the block toward a pink sign in the distance atop the grey asphalt. There were some other words on the sign, but all I could see was the one word “Donut”. Hence my introduction into the Mochi Donut World. Kismet.

Thanks Orozco’s tires for the subliminal and inadvertent Donut Digression

It was a weekday when I made my first visit to “Third Culture”. I learned later, there are lines out the door on the weekends. I daintily stepped over the threshold into the small bathed-in-pink sunlit filled shop. I gazed up at the pink paper round lanterns dangling from the ceiling (just like at my house!), I noticed faux Donut ‘plushies’ for sale, before my eyes rested on the colorful eatable Mochi Donut display. So many questions! Even though it was almost closing time, the friendly staff spent time educating me about the Mochi Donut.

It’s nice to wait in line on a sunny Saturday at “Third Culture” in Berkeley

They saw the excitement in my almost teary eyes. I walked out of “Third Culture” with a big smile on my face, holding my first Mochi Donut ever. I sat outside on a very pink sun-warmed stool and prepared myself for that first bite.

Mango Passionfruit Butter Mochi Donut, $3.25 from Third Culture in Berkeley

For those of you, who like me, were unaware of this somewhat new Mochi Donut craze, here is a bit of Donut Data. Mochi Donuts originated in East Asia, Japan, Hawaii and Brazil. They are not made with yeasted dough flour like the traditional Donut but with glutinous rice flour or tapioca starch. The word “bouncy” is often used to describe them. Most Mochi Donuts are comprised of 8 doughy balls stuck together in a circle and fried, they are topped with exotic-tasting colorful frostings. They resemble a baby teething ring. Many are gluten-free. “Third Culture” Mochi Donuts look more like traditional Donuts. They are baked instead of fried. The taste is a bit different than the other Mochi fried Donuts I sampled at other shops.

Maple Blueberry Butter Mochi Donut, $3.25 from Third Culture in Berkeley

It was a tough decision but I decided on the ‘Mango Passionfruit Butter Mochi Donut’. I was very mindful about this first bite I was about to take into this newfound type of Donut. As someone who has only been used to eating traditional Donuts my entire life, I was quite surprised and even taken aback when I bit into this baked Mochi Donut. The super dense chewy-gooey base was a stark contrast to the creamy frosted top.  At first I thought, “No!..this is not for me!” But two and a half bites in, I decided “Yes!…this is for me!” Oh, it was good… when these two distinct textures melded together in my Donut Hole (aka my mouth). So good in fact that I marched right back in and ordered the ‘Maple Blueberry Butter Mochi Donut’. I learned that Mochi Donuts are half the calories of traditional donuts, so I can eat twice as many! although they are twice as expensive…that’s a lot of Dough$. I will need to be satisfied with just one next time.

I had a new hop in my skip on my way back up the block to Orozco’s Tires to retrieve my car. Mr. Orozco himself gave me a free Tire teeshirt! And did I mention that “Third Culture” slipped a free Matcha Mochi Muffin (say that three times fast) in my bag? What a great day! New Donuts and almost New Tires.

Third Culture
2701 Eighth St, Berkeley
with locations in Walnut Creek and San Francisco. Come to the Anniversary Party April 8th and 9th.

So now that I had discovered the Mochi Donut I decided to check out two other Mochi Donut shops.

My next stop was “Mochinut” on Shattuck Ave. in Berkeley. The “Mochinut” shop is a chain with locations all over California. I was all alone in the shop. I ordered and paid via the touch screen, waited a couple minutes until a friendly masked woman popped out from the back and handed me my Honey Mochinut. I wanted to chat a bit, but I sensed that she needed to get back to the Mochinut frying tasks at hand. My Honey Mochinut consisted of 8 small doughy fried rice balls stuck together…just like the baby teething ring. Pulling apart the balls makes for easier eating. The Donut was excellent. It was less dense than the “Third Culture” baked Donut. However I do prefer the generous amount of frosting on the “Third Culture” Donuts. The Mochinuts are not quite as decadent.

Mochinut - 2969 Shattuck Ave. Berkeley

The very ‘touched’ order screen and my smiling Donut Hole (aka my mouth) at Mochinut in Berkeley

My Honey Mochinut Teething Ring from Mochinut on Shattuck Ave. in Berkeley…Waaaah!

2969 Shattuck Ave. Berkeley

The Mochi Donut Shop 2126 Irving St, San Francisco

The Mochi Donut Shop 2126 Irving St, San Francisco

My last Mochi Donut stop was in San Francisco. I was off to Ocean Beach, so I decided to drop by “The Mochi Donut Shop” at 2126 Irving St. The vibe was bouncy.  A “Donut Worry Be Happy” neon sign glowed above a white park bench on the grassy green astroturf wall. I ordered a Chocolate Mochi Donut. Same 8-ball fried, stretchy, chewy, gluey texture inside and a swipe of chocolate frosting on the outside. It was all good.

Donut worry. Be Happy. Chocolate Mochi Donut Teething Ring from The Mochi Donut Shop on Irving St. in San Francisco

The Mochi Donut Shop
2126 Irving St, San Francisco

I strode out the door with my Mochi Donut…but what was this across the street? I spied “Uncle Benny’s Donut and Bagel” shop. I felt traitorous. I wrapped up my half-eaten Mochi Chocolate Donut, hid it in my purse, and nervously walked into Uncle Benny’s shop. Sigh… It felt so very familiar, although I had never been inside. There was even a Donut Deity above the trash can. I could feel Buddha’s eyes on me. I turned away from him quickly. I looked around and saw various forms of human life, some happy and some sad. I left hastily, but I will return someday and get my Old Fashioned Donut and hang out.

Uncle Benny’s Donut and Bagel Shop 2049 Irving St San Francisco

Uncle Benny’s Donut and Bagel Shop
2049 Irving St, San Francisco

It may be hard to teach an old dog new tricks…but throw in some Donuts and well, it’s pretty easy.

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Schatzie Frisch

Schatzie Frisch

‘Schatzie the Renegade Deli Heiress’ is a Bay Area native and a lover of San Francisco. Much of her humorous art and writing are a direct result of having been in close (a bit too close) proximity with the cold cut, *Headcheese, at her beloved parent’s Delicatessen (RIP). Schatzie is a Vegetarian, and the creator of the only “Headcheese" Art Gallery in the world.

When Schatzie is not making fun of Headcheese, she has fun swing dancin', pumpkin carvin', pirate chasin', donut eatin' and uke playin' in ‘Schatzie’s Tropical Snoball Lounge’.

*Headcheese /ˈhed.tʃiːz : A cold cut that originated in Europe. Headcheese is not a dairy cheese. There is no cheese involved.