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Shopper’s Diary: Toiro in LA, World’s Best Source for Donabe and More

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Shopper’s Diary: Toiro in LA, World’s Best Source for Donabe and More

February 5, 2018

If you’ve heard of a donabe—a Japanese clay cooking pot that resembles a lidded casserole—that’s probably thanks in part to Naoko Takei Moore, aka Mrs. Donabe, who’s been importing the pots from Japan for more than a decade.

In 2007, Takei Moore got her first taste of rice cooked in a Kamado-san—a classic rice donabe—and has never looked back. Born in Tokyo but based in Los Angeles, the food and wine enthusiast began selling donabe in the United States in 2008. To spread the art, Takei Moore taught donabe cooking classes for several years, and in 2015, she published the cookbook Donabe: Classic and Modern Japanese Clay Pot Cooking.

The next phase of Takei Moore’s donabe venture comes as no surprise: In October 2017, she opened Toiro, a brick-and-mortar shop selling donabe alongside Japanese food imports and other Japanese kitchen tools and tableware you won’t find anywhere else. Let’s pay a visit.

Photography courtesy of Toiro.

Shelves at the front of the store prominently feature Takei Moore’s donabe offerings, including Rice Cookers, Steamers, Smokers, and more. (A style of donabe exists for almost every style of cooking.)
Above: Shelves at the front of the store prominently feature Takei Moore’s donabe offerings, including Rice Cookers, Steamers, Smokers, and more. (A style of donabe exists for almost every style of cooking.)
Toiro’s donabe are made in the Iga-yaki style of ceramics, said to have originated in Iga, Japan, in the seventh century. They are made by ceramists Nagatani-en, who have been making pottery since 1832. Each donabe is made by hand and takes about two weeks to complete.

Displayed on tables and benches at the center of the store, the wares include Iga-yaki ceramics—including Sake Flasks, Rice Bowls, and Suribachi Sets (a Japanese mortar and pestle).
Above: Displayed on tables and benches at the center of the store, the wares include Iga-yaki ceramics—including Sake Flasks, Rice Bowls, and Suribachi Sets (a Japanese mortar and pestle).
The word toiro means “10 colors” in Japanese, a reference to the sheer variety of donabe that Toiro offers.

Toward the back of the shop, where Takei Moore teaches cooking classes, a plywood shelving unit displays a wide range of donabe.
Above: Toward the back of the shop, where Takei Moore teaches cooking classes, a plywood shelving unit displays a wide range of donabe.

In addition to her donabe cookbook, Takei Moore offers Recipes for donabe rice dishes, quinoa, stews, and more on the Toiro website.

 Toiro’s mission is, in part, to “promote wonderful Japanese food culture.” Opposite the donabe display is a variety of Japanese foods, including Smoked Soy Sauce ($14), organic Black Sesame Paste ($22), and Fresh Ramen ($4).
Above: Toiro’s mission is, in part, to “promote wonderful Japanese food culture.” Opposite the donabe display is a variety of Japanese foods, including Smoked Soy Sauce ($14), organic Black Sesame Paste ($22), and Fresh Ramen ($4).
Takei Moore supplies donabe to high-end restaurants across the country, including Single Thread Farms in Sonoma County, California, State Bird Provisions in San Francisco, and Otium in LA.

 Naoko Takei Moore at the plywood table she uses for cooking classes and workshops. The green curtain at left leads to a small meditation room.
Above: Naoko Takei Moore at the plywood table she uses for cooking classes and workshops. The green curtain at left leads to a small meditation room.

The Kamado-san double-lid donabe is the classic donabe for rice: It has a porous clay body designed to heat rice gently, and a double-lid system that functions like a pressure cooker. Prices start at $120 for a one-cup size; the three-cup pot, shown, is $180.
Above: The Kamado-san double-lid donabe is the classic donabe for rice: It has a porous clay body designed to heat rice gently, and a double-lid system that functions like a pressure cooker. Prices start at $120 for a one-cup size; the three-cup pot, shown, is $180.
The Donabe Egg Baker is a “cute-size donabe for a variety of purposes” that can go in the oven, microwave, or on the stove. Available in six colors; $45 each.
Above: The Donabe Egg Baker is a “cute-size donabe for a variety of purposes” that can go in the oven, microwave, or on the stove. Available in six colors; $45 each.

Toiro shop is located at 1257 N. La Brea Ave. in West Hollywood.
Above: Toiro shop is located at 1257 N. La Brea Ave. in West Hollywood.

Find more tips on kitchens and kitchen tools in our Kitchens 101 guide, including features on Small Kitchen Appliances, Kitchen Cabinets & Hardware, and Kitchen Storage & Organization. For more Japanese design inspiration, see:

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