Here we introduce two traditional Japanese sweets, monaka and dorayaki.
Monaka (最中). Stuffed wafer cake. A typical Japanese sweet (wagashi). Rice (mochi) is made into a light, crisp wafer, which is stuffed with bean paste (an). Developed in the early 19th century. The wafers can be pressed into a great variety of shapes and sizes, for example like cherry blossoms, chrysanthemums etc. The filling can also be varied by adding sesame seed, chestnuts, etc. To be eaten with green tea.
Dorayaki (どら焼き, どらやき, 銅鑼焼き, ドラ焼き), also called mikasa (三笠). Stuffed pancake. Another typical Japanese sweet. Two small pancake-like patties made from castella sponge cake are filled with bean paste (an). "Dora" means "gong" and the shape of the sweet indeed resembles this instrument. A totally unreliable legend tells that the famous Benkei once forgot his gong when staying in a farmer's home, and the farmer then used the gong to fry the pancakes. The current shape was developed in the early 20th century.
In the Kansai area, this sweet is called "mikasa" rather than dorayaki. Mikasa is a triple straw hat, and also the nickname of Mt. Wakakusa in Nara (which resembles the shape of such a hat). Local people see the shape of this hill before their eyes when eating a mikasa, and in Nara especially large specimens are sold.
[Japanese sweets from Tsuruya in Kyoto: to the left "monaka" and to the right "mikasa," also called "dorayaki," flavored with green tea. Photo Ad Blankestijn]