Are you already missing CNY or Valentine’s Day? Treat yourself to a delicious ‘daifuku’ or two to keep the party mood going | Eat Drink
KUALA LUMPUR, February 17 – Soft and fluffy. Creamy and rich. Fresh and juicy. And a touch of luxury to complete the picture.
These are the step-by-step observations as you bite into one of those lovely treats from Mimi Daifuku: the “QQ” texture of the mochisweet and salty adzuki filling, the strawberry filling and a ribbon of gold leaf to finish. “Treat” is the right word, because you will feel spoiled.
Mimi Daifuku is founded by Ryan Chan and Adeline Lee, both 29 years old. The young couple had been in the workforce for a few years after graduating (Chan in accounting and finance, Lee in graphic design and advertising) before becoming entrepreneurs together.
Chan shares, “We launched our first business in online travel media; it is our passion to travel and share with others. However, the lockdown affected our industry a lot, so we looked for other sources of income.
Lee had been to Japan twice and had taken cooking classes while there. These included daifuku manufacturing, which sparked the couple’s idea of introducing Japanese desserts or wagashi at home, in a more accessible way.
With Lee’s new discovery wagashi crafting skills, the duo began testing various recipes and coming up with one of their own. Chan says, “We asked our friends and relatives to try our daifuku. Thanks to their feedback, we finally arrived at a recipe that retained the traditional Japanese flavor while appealing to our local taste buds.
The couple launched Mimi Daifuku (the name refers to their toy poodle Mimi) in January 2021, just in time for the Chinese New Year. Chan recalls, “We only set a goal of 50 sets, but we ended up selling over 1,000 sets during the holiday season!”
With such a promising start, they wanted to keep the ball rolling. One of the main concerns was to differentiate their daifuku from others on the market (which has become increasingly common in recent years with more home food businesses).
To address this concern, they insist on the preservation of traditional techniques using only adzuki or Japanese red beans to make the paste or Anko for the deposit. No shortcuts here.
Quality control is especially important when there are so few ingredients present, which is typical of Japanese-style minimalism. The strawberries, in particular, are crucial given that Mimi Daifuku’s version is known as Ichigo Daifuku – ichigo being the Japanese word for strawberries.
Chan says, “For strawberries, we use affordable but good quality imported fruits; seasonal strawberries from Korea or Australia. We have also introduced matcha daifukubecause we are also matcha lovers.
In order to grow their business, albeit slowly and carefully with a keen eye on market response, Mimi Daifuku had expanded their product line to include other Japanese desserts such as sakuramochi (essentially a pink-hued rice cake filled with anko and wrapped in a pickled cherry blossom leaf) and Japanese tofu cheesecake.
Some items are only available on their pop-up kiosks (i.e. offline rather than their online store), such as satay-like dango (rice balls on skewers), warabimochi (a wagashi made from fern starch and soaked in kinako or sweet toasted soy flour) and Insta’s famous raindrop cake.
Considering the aesthetic appeal of their offerings, Mimi Daifuku also offers personalized gift box services for corporate and private events. These run the gamut from weddings and birthday parties to even full moon celebrations.
Chan notes: “In this, we are able to use the skills and knowledge we have acquired during our university life – whether it is branding, photography and advertising. – to create a variety of presentable gift sets for different occasions.
One of their most popular products is their classic set which, thankfully, is available year-round. Presented in a Japanese-style wooden bento box, the set offers new customers a taste of both their original matcha and daifuku.
Chan explains, “To make daifuku overall more presentable and suitable for gifts, we added gold flakes on top daifuku. This is available as a set of 4 or 6 pieces, with two or three pieces of both flavors.
For returning or regular customers, there is always the eager wait for their limited edition daifuku flavors that come and go depending on the season.
Chan says, “We introduced our Sakura Daifuku during the Japanese cherry blossom season last spring. Others include our Sweet Potato Daifuku; our Hojicha Daifuku, an inter-brand collaboration with Matcharo; and our recent special CNY set with honey mike.”
For those looking to continue celebrating after the recent double whammy of Valentine’s Day and Chap Goh Mei, consider romancing your partner with their Charcoal Black Sesame Daifuku.
This sophisticated limited-time offering features the same imported seasonal strawberries and wooden bento box fans have come to expect, but with a shiny black sesame filling (instead of the usual red bean paste).
What about adding charcoal powder to the mochi? Well, 50 very dark shades of grey, anyone?
Although their operations are running like clockwork now, things were a bit tougher when they started. Chan says, “Our business started during the first period of lockdown. Due to a limited workforce, our daifuku was to be sold on pre-order.
This meant the duo were rushing to take orders through multiple platforms, including Instagram, Facebook and WhatsApp. The early days meant a lot of trial and error to see what stuck (and what didn’t).
Chan adds, “However, when we went viral within days, we standardized our process to take orders only through Instagram to avoid missed orders. During peak times, we received hundreds of messages each day and took hours to answer questions one by one until midnight.
As a small startup, everything is labor intensive. Chan shares, “All of our daifuku are freshly prepared in the morning, delivered and picked up in the afternoon.
But their efforts and sacrifices paid off, as Chan notes: “Sales increased during the lockdown as not everyone could dine out and switched to online ordering. The pandemic affected our travel media careers as travel was restricted. But it also meant that people were craving overseas food, especially desserts to relax.
The couple are busy with more products, collaborations and activities. Chan says, “We have participated in various art markets, including the upcoming Publika Night Market, and are actively considering new flavors. As the pandemic will not disappear in a short period of time, we must learn to live with it.
With the delicate sweetness of their daifukueach elegantly shaped by hand, we imagine facing the days to come, good or bad, with just a little more serenity, a little more grace.
See the daifuku and wagashi menu here.