Itadakimasu! – Dorayaki 銅鑼焼き
I had been thinking…what was probably my first impression of Japanese food which I’d gotten to known when we were young? Was it sushi? Was it sashimi? Hmm,I don’t think so… Was it Katsudon or Oyakodon? I think I only got to know about these in my late teens. So what was it exactly?
I vividly remember 2 programmes that were shown when I was young, a time when NHK invaded our local TV. It was 阿信 Oshin for the adults, especially mothers and grandmothers who would pause amidst making family dinner and become all thoroughly absorbed into the life of the little Japanese girl in this Japanese drama epic, only to return to the stove and vegetables all teary. For us kids then, it must have been Doraemon, that big-headed blue creature which I only got to know as a cat very much later. Japanese popular culture seem to be particularly fond of cats, albeit somewhat physically challenged, since Doraemon is without ears and just when you thought that was weird, Hello Kitty doesn’t have a mouth. Jokes aside, Doraemon was so immensely popular at that time with every boy and girl was able to hum the theme song despite not knowing a word in Japanese. And of course with Doraemon, dorayaki became also widely known to us as a popular Japanese snack. But it was only until much later that we’d gotten to know what it tasted like!
Dorayaki is often dubbed as the favorite snack of the popular Japanese anime and manga character. Amidst all the other kinds of typical omiyage snacks, i,e, snacks that would given away as gifts like senbei (savory rice crackers), dorayaki stuck in the heads of many of us. I had my first taste of dorayaki long after Doraemon became popular in Singapore. I remember that it was during one of the trips to a now-defunct Japanese chainstore, 八佰伴 Yaohan where we saw it and persisted my mum to buy it for us. I couldn’t remember how much it was exactly but I knew it was expensive. But being a doting mother, she obliged reluctantly. Our first impression of dorayaki was how soft and fluffy the pancakes were and that sweet red bean filling which was distinctively different from the “tau sah” we are familiar with in Chinese steams buns and desserts. It was delicious! No wonder it is Doraemon’s favorite snack!
Dorayakis are incredibly easy to make and it does not have a specialised ingredient list unlike some wagashis which I have encountered before. The pancakes are basically eggs, flour and sugar with a little leavening agent like baking powder or baking soda added. Some recipes I’d encountered require both just to be “doubly sure” but one is pretty much enough for the job. The texture of the batter is a tad thicker than what one would expect of regular pancakes. It is not as runny, resulting in the thickness we see in dorayakis while regular pancakes tend to flatten out more.
Temperature control is important to get the pancakes as uniformly coloured as possible on the exterior. The sugars (regular unrefined sugar and honey) used in the recipe ensure that the surface develops a lovely brown coloration arising possibly from Maillard reaction. Some recipes I’ve encountered (especially by Taiwanese foodies) added a small amount of dark soya sauce for coloration. Mirin may also be called for in some other recipes. I didn’t use any of these.
Use a non-stick flat-based frying pan which has been greased with as little oil as possible. Any excess oil MUST be wiped off or it would leave uneven scorch marks on the pancakes. And use a flavourless, light-coloured oil for greasing if possible. Canola, rice bran or sunflower seed oil is perfect for the job.
Making uniformly sized pancakes require batter that is “weighed out” using a consistent tool. I find it best with those Asian soup spoons and not ladles. The batter is thick, so it is best to drop the batter vertically onto the pan from a reasonable height of at least 15 cm. The force from the descent would cause the batter to spread out evenly to form lovely and homogeneous circles.
For the filling, traditional 潰し餡 tsubushi’an is used and it can be easily made at home with equal parts of red beans and sugar. The sugar level can be cut down slightly for a supposedly healthier option but do not go below 70% of the azuki beans by weight as the sugar not only serve as a sweetening agent but also a preservative as well. This is especially important for folks who wish to make a large batch of anko to be used over a period of time. For the recipe and making for tsubushi’an, please refer to the recipe for Kansai-styled Sakuramochi 桜餅の関西風 where I’d made it from scratch as a filling.
Dorayaki 銅鑼焼き Recipe (makes 8-9 dorayakis)
4 whole eggs (I’d used 55g eggs)
100g sugar （I’d used Japanese sanontou 三温糖 for more flavour but basically any light-coloured brown sugar works well. If not available regular caster or fine-grained sugar is perfectly fine too!)
1 tbsp honey (I’d used Acacia honey)
160g cake/pastry flour (any low-gluten flour, but regular all-purpose/plain flour works well too!）
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda, for softer and fluffier textures (optional)
2-3 tbsp water (adjust according to batter consistency)
Cooking oil for greasing, preferably light-coloured and flavourless
For making tsubushi’an 潰し餡, please refer to here for recipe and instructions. Otherwise, storebought tsubushi’an or ogura’an filling would work too. Though homemade allows much more control over the level of sweetness and texture.
In a large mixing bowl, add whole eggs, sugar, honey and whisk until the mixture is all bubbly and slightly pale.
Sift flour, baking powder together with baking soda (if using) and carefully mix into the wet ingredient mixture in 2-3 additions. Stir until all the ingredients are just incorporated and there are no flour lumps. Do not overmix the batter to prevent working up the gluten.
Check the consistency of the batter and add water to adjust accordingly. It should be reasonably thick and definitely not runny. Cover mixing bowl with a teatowel or plate and leave to sit for 30 mins or so. This allows any large air bubbles trapped to be released and to relax any gluten worked up from the mixing process.
Heat a flat and non-stick frying pan over medium-low flame and grease the pan very lightly with a light-coloured, flavourless cooking oil. Wipe off any excess oil with a kitchen paper napkin.
Using a chinese soup spoon, drop a spoonful of batter onto the heated pan. Repeat procedure to make more pancakes in one batch but take note not to overcrowd the pan.
Using a flat wooden or silicone heatproof spatula, flip the pancakes carefully when the bottom layer is cooked and could be dislodged easily. Cook the other side until it turns lightly brown and no longer sticky.
Repeat the process until all the batter is completely used up. Place the cooked pancakes on a plate and cover them with a tea towel (I’d used the dome of my cake stand) to keep them moist.
Match the pancakes according to size and fill one pancake by placing a spoonful dollop of tsubushi’an in the middle of it. Cover with the other pancake and gently press down to work the filling towards the edges.
Repeat until all the pancakes are used up.
Serve immediately. Can be left covered at room temperature for up to 2 days
I am suiting this entry in conjunction with hosting Asian Food Fest #1 – Japan, For both bloggers and non-blogging participants, this is for NEW entries on Japanese cuisine made to the event this month, submitted either through to our Facebook Page or email. Details on the even can be found here.