Ingredients, dishes and drinks from Japan by Ad Blankestijn

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Monaka & Dorayaki

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.

Monaka & Dorayaki
[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]


Tuesday, November 1, 2011


Mapo doufu. マーボー豆腐、麻婆豆腐。

Small squares of tofu in a mixture containing ground pork seasoned with leeks, ginger, sesame seed oil and soy sauce.

Originally a very hot dish called "mapo doufu" from Sichuan Province in China. The Chinese name is probably gibberish, but literally means something like: "Pockmarked-Face Old Woman's Tofu". Not a very attractive name for a food! It is more probable that the character "ma" refers to the numbing hotness of the original dish, rather then to a "pockmarked face."

In Japan, the dish is called "mabodofu" (マーボー豆腐). It was introduced by one Chen Kenmin who opened the first Sichuanese restaurant in Tokyo in the 1950s (according to Wikipedia). Chen adopted sweet bean paste in the recipe to make the dish less spicy and less oily - and so more to the Japanese taste.

It is one of the most popular Chuka dishes in Japan.

[Mabodofu. Photo Ad Blankestijn]