Hawai‘i-style dishes a hit at Takahashi Market


LOCO MOCO WITH A TWIST ­— Takahashi Market’s loco moco, made with hamburger marinated in a kalbi sauce, is a popular dish. photo by Kenji G. Taguma/Nichi Bei Weekly


LOCO MOCO WITH A TWIST ­— Takahashi Market’s loco moco, made with hamburger marinated in a kalbi sauce, is a popular dish. photo by Kenji G. Taguma/Nichi Bei Weekly

SAN MATEO, Calif. — In 1906, Takahashi Market, a San Mateo, Calif.-based Japanese American and Asian American grocery store, opened its doors. At its centennial mark in 2006, the market installed a commercial kitchen, enabling them to start serving plate lunches with poké, musubi and loco moco.

“The musubis are definitely the most popular thing here now,” Bobby Takahashi, the fourth-generation market owner, told the Nichi Bei Weekly. He said the store offers various musubi, including salmon crawfish, kalua pork cabbage, salmon pork belly and Spam. Takahashi said the unique musubi offerings reflect what his family “like(s) to eat.”

The idea for salmon crawfish musubi, Takahashi said, came from the crushed salmon in a crawfish salad with scrambled eggs breakfast plate they used to make. But they had to figure out how to incorporate kalua pork and cabbage into a musubi, he added.

The market also sells mochi ice cream, Hawaiian Sun drinks and Kauai Kookies, among other products.

Gene Takahashi, Bobby Takahashi’s father and third-generation store proprietor, said the market also sells poké, which they try to make “as close to Hawaiian-style as possible.” The store started creating the raw fish dish in the late 1970s and early 1980s, he said in an interview with the Nichi Bei Weekly. Currently, the market makes about 15 to 25 pounds of poké per day, he said.

The market started carrying Hawaiian food in the late 1950s and early 1960s, Gene Takahashi said. He said one of the reasons they started selling Hawaiian products was because “it was just hard to find Asian food in general” during that time period.

He said his father secured vendors in Hawai‘i to send dishes to the store. Currently, the market receives Hawaiian food about once a week through an air-freight shipment, he said.

MORE THAN JUST A GROCERY STORE — Takahashi Market in San Mateo, Calif. serves up Hawai‘i-inspired eats. Third-generation owner Bobby Takahashi points to a variety of musubi they offer. photo by Kenji G. Taguma/Nichi Bei Weekly

The store also sells loco moco, a dish that’s local to Hawai‘i, of rice and beef patty, served with over-easy eggs on top. The market’s loco moco is “more like a meatloaf, like a seasoned ground beef, with all the fixings that you would have,” Bobby Takahashi said. The dish, utilizing a kalbi-style marinade, is his favorite.

Gene Takahashi said the whole family is proud of Bobby taking over the market. He added at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, Bobby “helped us pivot all of our operations and … his main concern was taking care of our older customers.” The store allowed only 12 people inside at the beginning of the pandemic, Gene Takahashi added.

“It’s part of who I am. I mean I grew up here, every single day, watched it grow into what it is now and all my family with me too,” Bobby Takahashi remarked on carrying on the business.

Takahashi Market is located at 221 S. Claremont St., San Mateo, Calif. They are open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays, with senior hours (65-plus) Fridays from 9 to 10:30 a.m. (650) 343-0394. https://takahashimarket.com; tmarket@aol.com.

Kelly Yokoi contributed to this article.

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