Unlike the Starks and the Night’s Watchmen living in perpetual fear of winter’s arrival on Game of Thrones, the words “summer is coming” are more likely to stir up a range of emotions for Fany Gerson. Especially this summer. As New York’s queen bee of paletas, beach weather season has always been important for La Newyorkina and Dough’s owner, but this year, she’s also launching her first brick-and-mortar shop. Before getting around to her crazy busy summer, Fany headed to Japan to spread the gospel of her Mexican sweets shop, La Newyorkina.
Last year, a representative from Hankyu Department Store – a Japanese Saks Fifth Avenue-type store – visited Fany and invited Dough to participate in one of their New York-themed events, held in Japan. It went so well that Hankyu wanted to team up with Fany once again for an even more niche market centering on Brooklyn cuisine, taking place in Osaka this month. The company even asked Fany for input on what other Brooklyn eateries should make their way to Japan. Naturally, she chose her Smorgasburg compas Mofon•GO.
On Sunday, May 8, Newyorkina and Mofon•GO arrived in Osaka with two days to prep before the event officially kicked off on a rainy Wednesday. Though paletas are La Newyorkina’s thing, the company decided to highlight chamoyadas – the Mexican chili and fruit-based iced treat that includes chamoy sauce, powdered chili, and a tamarind straw – selling the signature mango flavor chamoyadas as well as two new flavors they created specifically for the people of Japan: Lychee and Yuzu. “People in Japan love anything that has to do with the US, especially New York,” said Daniel Ortiz de Montellano. “Now, the question is if they’re ready for Latinos to conquer. [Though] someone here yesterday described [chamoyadas] as being umami and oishi at the same time – a punch of savory flavor, but sweet at the same time.”
At Mofon•GO’s booth, Manolo Lopez also experienced Japanese foodies’ enthusiasm. Unlike La Newyorkina, Mofon•GO didn’t experiment with new flavors, because classic Puerto Rican cuisine is still very new for the people of Japan. “This is the first time mofongo or any other Puerto Rican food has made an appearance in Osaka, so everyone is very curious when they see us mashing in our pilones and when they see plantains, which they keep calling banana,” Manolo said. “To them, it’s all new and intriguing. People come back to thank us, take pictures, and the usual arigatou gozaimasu, which means thank you very much.”
But Manolo didn’t sweat the daunting task of introducing a city to Puerto Rican mofongo. His goal is to share Mofon•GO – which is only two years old – with the world. So when Hankyu approached him to participate, he happily accepted, arriving with 2,500 pounds of plátanos to rep his island’s cuisine. In the process, he was able to experience a cultural exchange that transcended the barriers of language and experience. “Most of the time the customer and I don’t interact with words, but with gestures and that makes everything worth it,” he said. “I guess food, like music, is a universal language, and for me to be able to share a piece of my island has to be hands down the best thing.”
Here’s a small glimpse into the event: