Hyphen Gift Guide: The Foodie Edition

December 20, 2011

Japanese gelatin dessert anmitsu from Freshstreet.

Food. The best gift of all, really. Sure, everyone says they want iPads or a Lexus with a red bow on top but when it comes down to it, the holidays are all about stuffing your face with the ones you love. If you're not into the whole gift-giving thing (or, you're broke!), try a DIY expression of holiday cheer by having the friends and family over and making them a treat.

In my family, we don't do Christmas gifts; we literally just eat and talk. My brother Kenny Kim and his wife Misako Ohba run Freshstreet and Section 8 Yakitorium, two Japanese street food stands in Columbus, OH, specializing in takoyaki, crepes, and yakitori. My sister-in-law is a trained pastry chef from Japan so along with my Korean American brother, the duo throw around a lot of culinary influences in the kitchen. They've offered up their take on the traditional Japanese fruit and gelatin parfait dessert anmitsu for those of you who'd rather make edible gifts this year.

Anmitsu has many variations. Kenny and Misako add matcha green tea balls and whipped cream to the traditional recipe which uses a seaweed based gelatin (agar agar or kanten) but they recommend experimenting to make it as healthy or fatty as you like.



  • Sliced fruit of your choice. Kenny and Misako suggest mixing sweet and tart fruits such as strawberries, mandarin oranges, mango, and/or lychee
  • Whipped cream or ice cream in a flavor of your choice
  • 1 block of agar agar gelatin (kanten), available at Japanese grocery stores
  • 1/2 cup Japanese brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup Japanese rice flour (shiratama-ko)
  • 1 tsp matcha green tea powder

The Gelatin

1. Take one block of agar agar gelatin and put it into a bowl of cold water, letting it soak for 1-2 minutes. Remove and squeeze the excess water from the gelatin before breaking it into pieces.

2. Boil about 2 cups of water over medium-high heat. Add 1/4 cup sugar and the pieces of gelatin to the water. Once dissolved, turn off heat. Pour the gelatin/sugar mixture into a container. (Try not to use a container that's too big, since you'll want to cut sizeable blocks once the gelatin has firmed up). Refrigerate for 30-45 minutes.

The Matcha Balls

1. Mix the rice flour and matcha green tea powder in a bowl. Lightly drizzle small amounts of cold water and stir until the flour is the consistency of Play-Do. It should be a forest green color. Pull off chunks and roll in your hand into a marble-sized ball. Misako says that in Japan, the perfect matcha ball should feel like squeezing an earlobe.

2. Boil some water in a small sauce pan. Once boiling, drop in the matcha balls and remove once they start to float. Drop them into ice water to let cool and then remove to dry.

The Brown Sugar Syrup

1. Add 1/4 cup of sugar to 1/4 cup of water in a sauce pan and boil at medium high, stirring constantly until the sugar dissolves and has slightly thickened. Turn off heat and set aside.

Take a dessert cup or bowl and add the gelatin, sliced fruit and top with the matcha balls, whipped cream (or ice cream) and drizzle with the brown sugar syrup. Then, let your loved ones go to town.

Follow Freshstreet on Facebook and Twitter.

Follow Section 8 Yakitorium on Facebook and Twitter.

And for those of you who'd rather just purchase a delicious item instead of sweating it out in the kitchen, there's no shame. Here are some more gift ideas for hungry bellies:

Grace & I


The ladies of Grace & I make small batches of local, organic fruit and vegetable preserves, fruit and nut presses, and granola. They also make gourmet baskets. You can find them in select stores in the greater Los Angeles and Boston areas, or you can purchase their goods online.


A big thank you to the following vendors who have generously sponsored past Hyphen events:

That Takes the Cake

2271 Union Street

San Francisco, CA 94123


Brian and Keisha Williams pride themselves on the fresh, natural ingredients of their cupcakes which take you back to grandma's kitchen. Stop by their SF location or order online to schedule a pick-up or delivery.

Sweet Lips Design


April Castelo-Canlas's design background inspires her edible candy displays, bars and buffets for events and parties.

Eurostation Crepes and Waffles

4454 W. Slauson Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90043

Eurostation features sweet and savory crepes, waffles, soups, salads, and breakfast items.


Sylvie Kim

contributing editor & blogger

Sylvie Kim is a contributing editor at Hyphen. She previously served as Hyphen's blog coeditor with erin Khue Ninh, film editor, and blog columnist.

She writes about gender, race, class and privilege in pop culture and media (fun fun fun!) at www.sylvie-kim.com and at SF Weekly's The Exhibitionist blog. Her work has also appeared on Racialicious and Salon.