Taipei Monaka Konditorei
“90 years of perpetual homemade flavor”
This plain looking storefront on the Bangka Boulevard has been in business for over 90 years. Witnessing the changing landscape from Japanese Colonial Era to the present, the store continues to produce perpetual classic flavors to this day.
In Japan, monaka is considered the king of wagashi. The Taipei Monaka Konditorei was established during the Japanese Colonial Era in 1920. The founder, Li De Mei, learned to hand-make the monaka from the Japanese, before passing the skills onto Li Ke Zhong and eventually Li Zhen Cheng, who continues the legacy.
Certificates and awards hung on the walls of the small but cozy store, including a special certificate of appreciation written in Japanese. In 1989, a national wagashi exhibition was held to celebrate Emperor Akihito’s succession to the throne, in which Taipei Monaka Konditorei had the privilege in attending. Since monakas are a popular treat in Japan, the Taipei Monaka Konditorei received a great deal of attention and even amazed the Japanese when it revealed that their monakas were hand-made instead of machine manufactured. During that time, most shops switched from the traditional labor-intensive making process to the automatic mass production method. The shells of the monaka are thin layers of mochi wafer made from glutinous rice, which is then baked to retain the aroma of the rice. The very fact it keeps to traditions moved the host of the exhibition, hence awarded with a certificate of appreciation.
Willingness to pass on the taste even if met with hardship
Making monakas is a time consuming process. You must control the temperature and moisture in order to maintain the quality of the shells. Even on a hot summer day, fans are used instead of air conditioning to keep the air circulating. While the machine used for baking the shells is so hot that not only will it cause blisters, “It may even peel your skin off”. With that the owner showed us the many burns caused by the machine. By baking it this way, every shell is aromatic and crispy. You will find yourself craving for more.
There are 5 different flavors of shells to select from; matcha, strawberry, dark cocoa, original and vanilla, in which each is filled with adzuki bean paste that is not overly sweet. The crispy “Gu zhi shi bing is a combination of the basic monaka shell with almond, pumpkin seeds and glucose powder. The shells of the most popular monaka ice cream sandwich come in 5 different flavors, filled with rich creamy ice cream for a perfect summer’s treat. Despite developing new flavors, the owner has also put special thought into packaging. Since monaka is a favorite gift choice for overseas family and friends, the separate packaging for the shell and its filling not only ensures the freshness of the taste but also provides DIY fun.