Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Smile Oven Big Melon Pan

Melon pan is one of the most superficially misunderstood pastries in Japan. For starters, people assume it's melon flavored. While it may seem illogical to name an item after a component which is often absent, let's consider some other concoctions in English. Are buffalo wings made from the wings of a buffalo? Are nutty bars made by crazy people? They're not even made with real nuts. Are whoopie pies made from or while making whoopie? No, Japan isn't alone in its inconsistency with naming conventions, though at least occasionally melon pan is flavored with melon.

Most of the time, melon pan is what I can only describe as "nothing" flavored. It's really just a big dollop of bread dough covered with crispy cookie dough then baked. At its best, the inside is fluffy bread and the outside is a lightly sweet crispy cookie shell sprinkled lightly with large crystals of sugar. In short, it is pretty much at its best as this Smile Oven melon pan.

All is not beer and skittles on the Smile Oven melon pan front, however. It smells like margarine and the only real flavor it has aside from margarine (not butter, no, no) is sweetness and flour. This is a pure textural sensation. It's a good one though be careful to get a fresh one if you're diving into melon pan territory. Melon pan that's sat around for awhile softens up and a melon pan without a crispy exterior is essentially sweetened white bread.

The biggest problem with the Smile Oven Big Melon Pan is that big doesn't mean better. You're essentially eating margarine-flavored cookie dough wrapped around the equivalent of 4 slices of good quality fresh and fluffy white bread. While you may consume it thinking that it's not that sugary so it can't be that bad for you, consider that it has a whopping 558 calories. Since this isn't the sort of thing that you can save and eat the next day, it's either a case of having to consume a huge processed carb bomb or throw part of it away.

This is a very nice treat, but I ended up eating the shell and tossing most of the bread away. It is good, but not good enough to be a meal substitute and 558 calories is as much as I eat for dinner. If you're walking around Tokyo and want to fuel up for a lot of footwork, then this might not be a bad thing to eat, but if you're snacking at the computer at work, forget it.


Sherry said...

I've never understood the attraction of melon pan. Like you said, except for when it has chocolate chips or the occasional extra flavoring - like melon - it tastes like nothing to me.

I always thought is was called melon pan because it looks a little bit like the texture you find on a melon. That was based on nothing but the rambling of my own brain though.

Orchid64 said...

That is exactly why it is called "melon pan" (it looks like half a melon, and the one I had was about the size of one). Most people don't know that. I've read blogs by foreigners in Japan who swear they are melon flavored or "explain" the reason they are called "melon pan" is their taste, but they're wrong. And you're right. :-)

Thanks for your comment!

Kelly said...

Contrary to what you say, the melon pan in hokkaido actually tastes like melon or it does in tokachi, as my in laws live there and i have fallen in love with the melon pan at obihiro station. I'ts so yummy with a definite melon flavour! :) Of course hokkaido is home to the yubari melon so maybe that's why.

The Hyperlexian Aspie said...

I have a recipe for melon pan, which I'll be making soon - I even have melon flavouring! Can't wait to try it!

I wanted to let you know I love your blog and I picked it for a peer blogger award:


Bryan said...

i was laughing at the "whoopie pie" you mentioned... always wondered about that. i don't think i've eaten melon pan before, but probably have eaten something similar (chinese equivalent). i agree about the nothing flavor though, for 558 calories it better taste damn good =)

Orchid64 said...

I'm not sure if whoopie pie being made while making whoopie would make it more or less attractive (I'm going with less).

There are a lot of Chinese sweets in Japan (or Japanese off-shoots of them) as well as Portuguese ones. I can't say I've ever seen the Chinese equivalent of a melon pan, but it any worse nutritionally than the Japanese one.

Thanks for reading and commenting!

The Hyperlexian Aspie said...

My melon pan was a total FAIL! It was hard to make (never having tried it), but I had the will AND the recipe AND the melon flavouring (in Canada no less).

Ummmm the cookie dough was too buttery and so the cookie coating expanded... creating one large cookie that spread over the entire pan... with regular bumps where the buns sat underneath.

I cut away the excess cookie, and the resulting melonpans taste fantastic - but they look like s**t! Next time...