Friday, April 13, 2012

Lawson VL Jumbo Dorayaki

I've always been curious about the origin of various foods and wary of the notion that any food was solely invented by one particular culture. Long-time and attentive readers will recall that I question the notions of “Japanese bread” and “Japanese cheesecake” as these are not Japanese at all, but minor variations on European cuisine (as are many other baked food items). All of that being said, I think there are some things which make sense as food concepts which likely were "discovered" simultaneously in various cultures. Pancakes would fall into the category of things that you could easily see being created all over the world without input from other cultures. How imaginative does a person have to be to think about adding (any type of) flour to liquid and then deciding to pour into onto a hot, oiled surface?

Dorayaki is something which I haven't reviewed before because it is most often sold filled with chunky sweet red bean paste (tsubuan) and I'm more of a fan of koshian (finer paste that has had the skins sifted out and has more of a smooth fudge-like texture). As time has gone by, I've grown a lot mellower about coarser versions and as our departure from Japan approached, I became more and more attracted to traditional Japanese sweets including those with chunky-style sweet red beans.

It's important to say at this point that I didn't go 23 years in Japan having never eaten dorayaki. It's a very common treat and I'd been exposed to it before, but didn't really pay much attention to it when I ate it. My first really positive experience with it came at a Japanese all-you-can-eat buffet that had a dessert bar which included some damn fine dorayaki. This 100 yen ($1.22) super large (about the diameter of my open hand with splayed fingers) “jumbo dorayaki” wasn't something that I expected to live up to that aforementioned red-bean-filled pancake, but it certainly was more accessible since it was on sale at the local Lawson 100 shop a few minutes from our apartment.

Dorayaki is basically two pancakes sandwiching some sort of filling, usually bean paste. The main question is not what it will taste like, but what the textures will be like. Will the cake be sticky and weird on the outside (sometimes they are), dry (ditto), or tough (double ditto)? Will the beans be too sweet or too bland? In the the case of this dorayaki, the pancake had a very nice flavor and texture and was only slightly tacky on the outside. It was tender and appropriately sweet for a relatively bland wrapper for the bean filling. The beans themselves were quite sweet and lacked a strong “beany” taste. I could have done with a bit more flavor depth on that front, but I can't say it was terribly disappointing and I felt that it was sweet and had a satisfyingly dense texture.

I can't say this is the best dorayaki ever, but I can say that the value for the size and price is on the amazing side. It is quite tasty and I'd definitely buy it again if I had the chance. It's important to note that this really is a "whole lotta dorayaki" at 490 calories for the entire thing. A quarter makes a serviceable snack, half makes for a nice continental breakfast, and the whole thing for an enjoyable pig-out. You can guess which I went for.

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