Of all Japanese sweets and desserts (otherwise known as Wagashi), you never really hear people talk about Dorayaki, which is a shame as it is one of the tastiest treats I have encountered in the Land of the Rising Sun.
Dorayaki is one of the sweets most loved by the Japanese people, ever since the Edo Period. It is made of two hand-sized pancakes made of castella (a kind of pastry). Between the pancakes, it is filled with sweet azuki red bean paste, which I am more familiar with in Korean cuisine, for example in patbingsu. With Dorayaki, the name comes from the word “dora”, which means “gong” in Japanese, and is said to be called this because pancakes look like gongs…
Most of the Dorayaki I have eaten has been found in Tokyo and the surrounding Metropolitan area. In fact, I am told that in Kansai (Osaka, Kyoto etc.) it is not even called Dorayaki, but instead Misaka – but I must confess I was too busy eating takoyaki and okonomiyaki to care about desserts when in Osaka! As with everything in Japan, there seems to be an orderly chaos when queuing for your treats but I always remember the first time I tried dorayaki, and I really enjoyed the fluffy texture of these castella pancakes. Perhaps, not quite as endearing as the likes of Kakigori or Melonpan, do nonetheless, I do like to stock up on dorayaki when I am back in Japan – and surprisingly they are hard to find in the tropical climate of Singapore (even in Chinatown).
I understand that not all Western people appreciate the specific taste of azuki red bean (or Japanese sweets in general), but you can still enjoy dorayaki even if you don’t like azuki red bean! I recommend you to try nama-dorayaki. Nama-dorayaki looks very much like a standard dorayaki, but there is whipping cream inside, instead of red bean paste. It is a special dorayaki, which is a specialty in the Gunma Prefecture (easy to find in Tokyo, though, too). It actually tastes like eating pancakes with whipped cream on it. I also found an ice cream dorayaki in Odaiba once (similar to Monaka, another delightful Japanese dessert). It was a great way to people watch near the Rainbow Bridge as I scoffed it down!