By Yuka Kumakura / Japan News Staff WriterTokyo’s Sugamo district — a place known as “the grannies’ Harajuku” after the fashion district — is also a paradise for Japanese confectionery lovers, with lots of classic confectioners selling the local signature sweet, shio-daifuku (salty, sweet red bean paste-filled mochi).
As I was strolling in the area recently, I was expecting to buy some shio-daifuku, but the sweet smell of dorayaki pancakes being baked at a shop front made me change my mind. I ordered an “an-butter dorayaki” (¥210, about $1.90) at Sennari Monaka Honpo.
Dorayaki consist of two small pancakes aroud a filling of “an” sweet bean paste, and they are a popular small gift to bring when visiting someone’s home. However, upon ordering my dorayaki, a shop worker asked if I would mind eating it at the shop instead of taking it home.
“We use no additives, and we’re especially concerned about food safety because an-butter dorayaki contains a fresh dairy product,” said Emi Odomo, the third-generation owner of the business. “To avoid any issues, we ask customers to eat the dorayaki at the shop.”
Five minutes after placing my order, a palm-sized warm, fluffy pancake sandwich filled with not-too-sweet an paste and a pat of slightly-salted butter was served.
“Sprinkle salt or grind some black pepper over the an paste and butter. They go well,” a staff member told me as he served the food, pointing at the condiments on the table.
I took a bite without adding any seasoning. The slice of butter gave it a rich and milky taste. I could imagine that salt would enhance the sweetness of the an paste. But what about pepper? It is a combination that most Japanese people would never think of when eating dorayaki. Adding pepper gave the snack a fresh, savory aroma and makes it different from ordinary sweets.
Established about 80 years ago, the shop’s signature sweets are monaka (bean jam-filled wafers), hence its name. But freshly baked dorayaki are also a big draw for customers. Although the shop began selling dorayaki so long ago, it wasn’t until last September that it began selling them with butter.
Although Odomo grew up the daughter of a confectionery shop owner, she said she “doesn't like sweets very much.” But, she “likes trying new things as a daughter of a businessperson.” Thanks to her innovative spirit, the shop attracts both sweet-toothed types and people who prefer moderate sweetness. Mugicha barley tea is offered free of charge, making a perfect afternoon snack break. Each day’s dorayaki are usually sold out by around 4 p.m.
Sennari Monaka Honpo’s Sugamo branch
Open: 9 a.m.-7 p.m. daily
Address: 3-28-8 Sugamo, Toshima Ward, Tokyo
Phone: (03) 3917-8885
English menu available
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