Young-Jae “Tommy” Chang was born and raised in Santa Barbara, but often visited his family in South Korea, where rice cakes are a traditional staple. Whether here or there, “with each visit and gathering, there would always be rice cakes and mochi for everyone to snack on,” explains Chang. “And during the holidays, my mom would typically make mochi squares laced with seasonal fruits and nuts.”
Inspired by those experiences, Chang threw himself headlong into making his own mochi treats for the greater Santa Barbara community, and started selling them weekly in November under the name Mōr Doughnuts. The rice-flour doughnuts are lighter and gummier than standard American wheat- or potato-flour versions, defined as much by their texture as their flavor. (Mōr currently has no gluten-free options.) I’ve tried the versions made by the Japanese-owned Mochinut in Irvine and the Taiwanese/Indonesian-owned Third Culture in Oakland, both at the fore of bringing these yummies to California. Even though he’s brand new to the game, Chang’s creations more than hold their own against these mochi doughnut heavyweights.
Each week, Chang offers four flavors that come as a boxed set for $12. Typically, there’s at least one familiar point of entry, such as Fruity Pebbles or the Ferrero Rocher–inspired chocolate-frosted with crushed hazelnuts and some edible gold. And there’s at least one homage to Asian flavors, such as the black sesame or matcha glazed. One recent offering, the churro mochi doughnut, could even be dubbed Mexican-Korean-American fusion.
While ring-shaped, they’re not mere circles, instead adhering to the increasingly popular bubble mold, also becoming common in bubble waffles. The playful shape and vibrant colors make the doughnut-eating experience pop even before you sink your teeth in for the first, chewy bite.
“I use the [sets of four] as an opportunity to introduce different flavors into peoples’ lives,” said Chang. “I try to be intentional with my flavor rotations and find balance between nontraditional and traditional flavors. I do have everyone in mind when I’m working with nontraditional flavors, where it’s not only palatable, but also enjoyable.”
Case in point: black sesame may not be the first thing someone reaches for out of Mōr’s iridescent box, but the freeze-dried strawberry flakes on top make it as fun as the astronaut snack it elicits. The resulting symmetry of sweet, sour, and savory propels it into new territory.
Eventually opening a brick-and-mortar doughnut shop “would be a lot of fun” for Chang. But for now, the only way to get Mōr is ordering online once the clock strikes noon on Thursdays (they sell out quickly). Then you select a pickup time on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday from his dad’s martial arts studio at 517 De la Vina Street.
“I started Mōr with the hope of offering a good that could potentially help other businesses,” explained Chang. “Partnering up with other businesses and offering exclusive flavors through them is what I would be most happy with. Can I do ‘Mōr’ with these doughnuts beyond simply selling them? Can I spark joy in someone’s life today with them? Can they help make our community a happier place?”
See this week’s flavors and place an order at mordoughnuts.com.
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