Mochi ice cream inventor Frances Hashimoto dies of cancer

Frances Hashimoto, an influential business leader in LA's Little Tokyo neighborhood, who "fought to preserve the neighborhood's Japanese cultural traditions and who invented the popular fusion dessert known as mochi ice cream," has died of lung cancer. She was 69.

Hashimoto was born in a WWII internment camp in Arizona in 1943.

"She was an angel on earth," her husband told the AP. "She always gave and gave and gave to the Japanese community."

The fusion dessert she invented involves ice cream (in any one of seven flavors) nestled inside a soft, sweet, chewy-gooey rice cake pillow. Her Mikawaya USA brand mochi ice cream broke out of the "ethnic food" niche long ago, and is widely carried in mainstream American grocery chains like Trader Joe's, Safeway, Albertsons and Ralphs. You can also enjoy it at the Little Tokyo dessert boutique where she started it all, Mikawaya. I've noshed on the sweet treat there, and recommend you do the same when next in Los Angeles, in her honor.