Fulamingo, Portland’s hidden Japanese market, is full of cult snacks and the chef’s secret ingredients
Imagine a great playlist, but with Japanese food instead of music. The mix includes cult snacks, instant wonder foods and chef-favorite secret ingredients. It’s the A side, the fun side of eating, what we live for. The B-side is basically everything you need to capture the essence of Japanese home cooking, plus a collection of artisan sakes to go with it.
And that, in a bag of fried ramen chips, is Fulamigo—a Japanese DIY market from industry veterans Erik Hanson and Kana Hinohara Hanson. Since 2020, Fulamingo has existed online, selling hundreds of whimsical and practical Japanese foods, complete with cooking suggestions and tasting notes. Inspiration comes in part from the world of konbini, or Japanese convenience stores, which the couple frequent on trips to Japan, with insider tips from Tokyo parents.
“I consider myself a translator,” says Kana, who grew up in California. “I am the child of the first generation of Japanese immigrants. I am in a unique position to see both worlds, the United States and Japan.
Now Fulamingo also has a physical home inside the redesigned Market well spent at 935 NE Couch St. Think a very well organized Japanese store in a very well organized mini market where you can find fresh eggs, high end olive oil or a bag of hot chocolate flavored Ffups corn puffs snapshot, which proudly calls itself “Not Healthy.”
In 2019 Wellspent opened as a Real good food, an outpost for the passions of local cooking legend Jim Dixon and his business partner Noah Cable. The expanded store, restarted on May 10, is now a bustling, Beastie Boys-run neighborhood market with two new in-house vendors: florist Fieldwork and Fulamingo, whose shelves take up an entire wall. Erik, known for his strong taste for wine, is also a buyer of house sake, with his own shelf devoted to the drink.
The couple met years ago at the trendy Portland neighborhood izakaya Biwa. She was the manager; he made cocktails. They bonded over a love of all things Japanese (Erik, a Japanese student, studied in Hokkaido at university). In 2018, they opened the adorable but short-lived Japanese grocery store Giraffe inside the Cargo curio shop. Plans for a brick and mortar are on hold at this time. Cable, one of their business mentors, hosted them at Wellspent, which has a strong penchant for collaboration and hosts foodie events in its parking lot throughout the year.
“They have this incredible love for Japanese food,” says Cable, who also co-owns iconic pie shop Lauretta Jeans with his baker wife Kate McMillen. “They just want to bring joy. Creating this collection is the palate they paint with. It’s such a beautiful expression of what they like to eat.
How do they decide what makes the Fulamingo collection? “Uwajimaya is such an amazing store,” says Erik, “but there are so many things, all these choices. Without the help of friends saying “it’s good”, I would be lost.
Instead of making you look at 15 kinds of rice vinegar, their motto is, “our favorite brands, from industrial to artisanal to seasonal, this is the best, the one you must have.”
Instant Spicy Cod Roe Spaghetti Sauce
Tokyo guidebooks consider spaghetti mentaiko a must-have dish from the annals of yōshoku, or Japanese-style Western dishes, a genre deliciously explored in Toki, downtown Portland. cana calls the mentaiko flavor salty, almost spicy, buttery, a bit crunchy but unlike anything else. “In Japan, spicy cod roe is ubiquitous and very well known as a flavor in itself.” It’s easy to do with this instant pack – just toss in a bowl of noodles and boom.
Boss Coffee Cold Latte
Canned coffee is officially a thing in Japan, found in the country’s ubiquitous vending machines. Some coffee lovers actually prefer the canned version of Japanese Boss Coffee, whose label features the face of pipe smoker William Faulkner. Boss’ claim to fame: quickly brewed, hot and then cooled instantly for richness and a silky smooth texture. Erik and Kana swear it’s the best iced coffee, period, and they’re willing to beat you for it. Cable adds, “I love it. It’s so easy and delicious. We have hundreds of roasters in Portland. It’s okay to drink coffee from a can.
Garlic Miso Rice Topping
This table condiment is a staple at Japanese steakhouses for a reason, according to Kana: “It’s really good on steaks!” Or on rice, or vegetables for that matter. “I’m obsessed with it,” she said. “And everyone I give it to gets obsessed with it too. It’s garlic but not crazy garlic; it’s miso but not strong miso, just balanced between salty, salty and a little sweet. It’s really good on everything. Put it on everything.” The Kuze Fuku & Sons brand has its own clientele for its artisanal ingredients.
Baby Star Large Ramen Snack
Matcha-Anko Butter Spread
Cable, a toast maniac, has put this spread, which contains pureed sweetened white beans and two kinds of matcha tea, on regular rotation at home. “It has a little green tea vibe, a bit of butter and that delicious sweetness. It’s almost like a buttery version of green tea ice cream.
Fulamingo dubs this taste-bomb condiment “the chef’s secret weapon.” At its heart: the spicy heat of fresh green peppers, a hint of salt and the warm acidity of yuzu, a fragrant citrus fruit. “There are a whole host of Japanese secret ingredients,” Kana explains. “You don’t know it’s there, but just a little adds so much depth and complexity.” Followers use it in soups, cocktails, popcorn and even cookies, noting that a little is enough.
Eiko Fuji Honkara Honjozo Sake
If Erik is in a hurry to choose a sake from the house collection, this is it – not too expensive ($27), easy to like and very accessible. “Some sake is big and massive or overwhelming,” he says. “Honjozo is one of my favorite styles for a crisp, clean, refreshing drink. The quality is like alcoholic spring water. Need we say more?