Baked Goods

Hole Lotta Love: Mochinut Hawaiian Donuts Makes Its Mark in Tempe

Mochinut has arrived.
Mochinut has arrived. R. Pela
Are there people who’ve been waiting for a donut shop that serves French-fry-encrusted corndogs? There must be, and I’ve got good news for them. Mochinut has arrived in Tempe, and it’s serving more than just delicious rice flour donuts.

Owner Archie Wang opened Mochinut four months ago and says business has been hopping, though the past couple of weeks has been slower. You couldn’t prove it by me. As she and I sit at the high counter in her Tempe storefront, talking donuts, I’m watching a stream of people come in to order mochi donuts like old pros. The woman who orders a half-dozen plain mochinuts confides to the counter clerk that she could eat 600 of them. I’m eating one myself, and I won’t disagree with her.

Wang’s donuts are made with mochi flour, short-grained sweet rice with a high starch content that’s traditional in Japanese cooking. The result is a fusion of American donuts and mochi, the Japanese rice cake. Popularized in Hawaii, mochi donuts are lighter and chewier, and slightly crisp on the outside. Shaped like a baby’s teething ring, its eight-round, donut-hole-styled beads taste and feel different from yeast or cake donuts.

“Everything is made fresh every day,” Archie says as I plow my way through the trio of mochinuts I’ve ordered. Mochinuts come in orders of three and are available in six different flavors each day. “We change the menu all the time, so you’re not going to get the same thing,” Archie explains.

There’s nothing “the same” about the airy, mango-glazed donut I’m trying not to wolf down. It’s both cakey and light, somehow. The matcha donut is even better, frosted with a slightly floral-flavored tea glaze that’s an unfortunate pea-green color.

Also on the menu today is a mochinut glazed with chocolate and dusted with crumbled Kit Kat bars. It tastes more like a traditional donut-shop donut, doughy and crisp and smacking of snack cakes. Is this, I ask Wang, a nod to American culture?

“We have a person working here who comes up with the flavors and does all the glazing,” she says with a little laugh. “She likes to experiment.”

I ask if rice flour is better for me than regular flour; maybe eating mochinuts is like eating smart. Wang laughs and shakes her head. “You’re still eating donuts covered in sweet glazes,” she says. “It’s good, and it’s made with fresh ingredients, but it’s not health food.”

As I’m packing up to leave (I fully intend to gobble the rest of my mochinuts while I’m driving home), Wang hands me a box full of her house specialty: mochi-rolled hotdogs on a stick. I slide these sculptural beauties off their wooden dowels and chop them open at home. The Original is rolled in mochi and a crisp outer breading that’s dotted with what tastes like tomato catsup; the Potato is prepared similarly, but its outer coating is jammed with hunks of crispy French fries. The juicy beef frank begins halfway down in both cases, allowing me to enjoy the dense, rich mochi cake for several bites before I meet up with Oscar Mayer.

I’m tempted to call Mochinut to ask if they deliver.

117 East Southern Avenue, Tempe
11 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily
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Robrt L. Pela has been a weekly contributor to Phoenix New Times since 1991, primarily as a cultural critic. His radio essays air on National Public Radio affiliate KJZZ's Morning Edition.
Contact: Robrt L. Pela