A flamingo isn’t exactly a phoenix, but either way, Kana Hinohara Hanson is rising from the ashes of this pandemic.
After Giraffe Goods—her venture with business partner Gabe Rosen of Noraneko fame—closed last May, Hinohara Hanson knew she wasn’t done yet.
In October, she launched online-only Fulamingo (the Japanese pronunciation for the pink bird) with her husband, Erik Hanson. In January, she started making bento and other tasty treats for pickup and delivery along with the pantry staples, sake and tasty candies and snacks. And now she’s searching for a retail space.
“The inspiration is definitely the hole that Anzen left behind,” Hinohara Hanson says, referring to the longtime Japanese grocery that shut its doors in 2014. “You have to go to Beaverton to get a good selection of Japanese goods. I love going to Uwajimaya, but it’s not super convenient.”
As of right now, Hinohara Hanson has a tightly curated shop with everything from high-end konbu for dashi making, locally made Umi Organic noodles and boxes of Meiji brand Mushroom Mountain chocolates, which truly represent the perfect ratio of chocolate to biscuit in a way that Pocky could never dream of achieving.
Getting milk bread from Oyatsupan Bakers in Beaverton delivered to my inner-Southeast apartment spurred me on to order yuzu sake, those chocolate mushrooms, instant dashi, and several food items, all in the name of getting my $10 delivery fee waived for spending more than $75.
The mix of artisanal and mass-produced products, Hinohara Hanson says, is intentional and based on her own shopping habits. Even industrial Japanese companies follow more traditional ways of making things, so she says she’s happy to stock her favorites in all price ranges.
“I grew up Japanese American, and even I have a hard time going into Uwajimaya,” she says. “I have my favorites, but other people…I feel for them. You don’t know the difference between these two cheap rice vinegars. They’re both the same price. But which one is the good one?”
Fulamingo began serving food in mid-January, reviving some of the most beloved konbini (or Japanese convenience store) favorites from Giraffe. The egg salad sandos on plump Oyatsupan milk bread ($5.99) are back, as are kara-age chicken bento ($13.99), with sides of differently flavored rice, pickles, veg and potato salad. The kara-age is tweaked from its old format at Giraffe—denser and saltier, this one is Hinohara Hanson’s mother’s recipe.
“I really missed making food,” Hinohara Hanson says. “I’ve been working in restaurants my whole life.”
Don’t skip an order of the gyudon, a hug of a bowl of simmered beef and onion in a dashi and mirin broth. It’s slightly sweet, full of umami and served over rice. I threw an egg over the top so I could eat it for breakfast. Pickled lotus root, onigiri rice balls, and a cold corn potage soup that smacks of summer are also on the list.
Order online and pick up at Northeast’s Colibri, Cargo in the Industrial Eastside (and former home to Giraffe Goods) or, if you want your takeout hot, at the commissary kitchen on North Albina Avenue. Delivery is also available most of the week.
As for a permanent home, Hinohara Hanson says she’s zeroing in on a few places on the eastside. She’s hoping to add more products, including housewares, increase her hot food offerings, and play around with the Japanese concept of ichiju sansai: “A bowl of rice, pickles, sipping broth and three sides,” she explains. “That’s considered a balanced meal.”
Depending on permits and other factors, Hinohara Hanson says she hopes to have a physical Fulamingo opened by the end of summer.
“I feel really happy and blessed that it’s going well,” she says, adding that after months of trying to do what felt safest in lockdown, she’s ready to have a retail footprint. “It feels like time now.”
EAT: Order at fulamingo.com.
Fulamingo’s Top Five Items, Selected by Kana Hinohara Hanson, Co-Owner
1. Dried Hawk’s Claw Chile Peppers “Taka-no-tsume”: These little, spicy red chile peppers are a vanishing breed, and even just one in a dish goes a long way with both flavor and heat.
2. Any Spring Namazake: Every spring, sake breweries release super-limited quantities of bold, highly aromatic and lively unpasteurized sake. Fulamingo still has some, but they are going fast.
3. Summer Ramune: Ramune is a Japanese soft drink that has a fun and unique top that you have to “pop” a marble into to open. We have four flavors that are only available during the summer: Peach, Muscat Grape, Asian Pear, and Salt.
4. Ine Mankai Red Rice Sake: This is a special sake brewed with red rice. It’s pink, like rosé. It’s made by a woman (also rare) and is fruity, funky and rich with umami. Very unusual and sought after. Drink it with food, especially pizza.
(TIE) 5. Gyudon: Unless you grew up with a Japanese mom, maybe you haven’t gotten to try this type of simple, everyday Japanese food like my mom used to make for me. It’s food I crave every day yet can’t really find around town.
Yuzu Kosho: An often-overlooked condiment, but it’s a staple in my household. It’s a paste of fermented yuzu citrus and spicy peppers, and just a dollop will take your food to the next level.