By: Luis Arjona Photos by: Rachel Benavides
Born and raised in Japan, Manami Kumagai found a dearth of delicious customary Japanese treats in the Coastal Bend—so she decided to make her own. Kumagai had some difficulties making the transition from her home country, having moved overseas in December of 2019. However, after launching Mana’s—a home-based bakery serving delicious Japanese-style bread and pastries here in Corpus Christi—in May 2021, she realized sharing a piece of her culture with others also served as a platform for her to connect with the community by way of her delicious gift.
“Right now, I really feel Mana’s is not [just] a business. It allows me the opportunity to interact with locals and make new friends,” she said.
Mana’s menu currently features several pastries and bread items. Kumagai said her aim is to bake traditional Japanese-style bread not only for the sake of tasty treats, but to take people back to memories they might have from residing in Japan. I imagine her offerings have a similar effect to when Rebecca Welton eats Ted Lasso’s biscuits: an icebreaker filled with pure (and tasty) joy.
While Kumagai wants the authenticity that would allow customers nostalgia trips, she does take creative liberties to experiment by creating her own spins on traditional treats. She also underscores the importance of creating vegan options in her rotation. Customer satisfaction is of utmost importance, and Mana’s aims to deliver.
Currently, customer favorites include the melon pan, vegan strawberry cake, and vegan blueberry tart. The melon pan, a staple in the menu, can be spotted by its distinct crunchy cookie dough resembling the skin of a melon covered with bread dough.
The baker herself recommends chigiri bears. “Chigiri,” in English, translates to “pulled apart,” as the cute treat consists of mounds of bread decorated as several detachable bears. The mocchiri donuts are another treat that would not survive the car ride home. Both specialties are simply delicious, with a beautiful presentation that does not disappoint.
Kugamai plans to grow Mana’s presence in the Coastal Bend by attending more markets and local events. Mana’s is a unique experience into a cultural cuisine not too common yet in the area, and one that is more than welcomed.