Obon Season / by Megan Tomino

Obon is the time of year when buddhist families gather to celebrate their ancestors. For us non-buddhists, it's a time to eat lots of andagi and dance the bon odori with complete strangers! No matter your what your religious beliefs are it's great to see all members of the community come together to celebrate. This year, Mark and I checked-out the Wahiawa Hongwanji Mission obon since it's just minutes away from our house. 

The sun had just started to set but already there were rows and rows of mismatching beach chairs circling the main tent in the temple's parking lot. Bright pink paper lanterns (with no light in them because I guess that's illegal in Hawaii?) spanned the entire lot. Soon, the bon odori dancers came out to open the ceremony.


As the dancers danced my eyes wandered over to the tai yaki tent. I'd like to thank whoever made these little cuties up. Fluffy pancake-like dough filled with sweet azuki bean or chocolate at just $1 a piece... luckily I didn't have much cash or else I would have bought the entire tray. All the volunteers were so nice, allowing me to shove my camera in their faces while they were busy trying to fill these little fish molds. 

I love the tool they use to fill the tai yaki - it's the first time I've seen it being used but am guessing it's pretty traditional. The azuki is filled on a plate about 1/8" deep, leveled out, then pushed into the dough that fills the molds. The azuki contraption ensures that each tai yaki is filled from mouth to tail with azuki bean. Genius!

The tai yaki are cooked until slightly crisp and served piping hot! I wish I had a cup of tea to go with it, but there was no way these guys were gonna make it home with me. Bite, bite, gone!


The andagi guys were a riot. Thank goodness Mark asked the volunteers if I could creep behind the barrier to take photos of them! I sheepishly walked up to the crew (who look like they've been on andagi duty for the last decade of Obon ceremonies) and asked if I could take pictures. One uncle responded, "of course!" After I snapped a few, another uncle said, "oh, now her camera steh broke!" HAHA! They were hilarious.

I continued to watch as they formed new andagi. They pulled out handfuls of dense dough from a bucket and fed it through the perfect sized hole made with their index finger and thumb. Then, they use their opposite index finger to "slice" off the piece of dough and drop it into the blazing hot oil.

Once the andagi are golden brown and delicious, they pick each one up with a tongs and shake it (rather violently) to remove excess oil. As you can see in the photo above, the uncles pull their socks allllll the way up just in case the hot oil splatters all over. So smart!

These guys have their recipe down 100%. The andagi was crisp and light with a cake donut-like consistency in the middle with just a hint of sweetness. Although they're best when fresh out of the fryer, I took some home with me and can't wait to have them with my morning cup of coffee!