Dorayaki are two palm-sized castella pancakes that sandwich something sweet, traditionally anko, or sweet red bean paste.
● Castella itself is sweet spongy cake* (traditionally Spanish and/or Portuguese in origin but now a ultra-standard Japanese sweet which can be found virtually anywhere from fairs, conbini's to depa-chika's**), brought over by Portuguese merchants in the 16th century to Nagasaki, the international trading port at that time. Even today, it is said that the best castella in Japan come from Nagasaki.
● Anko, is made by boiling heaps of azuki beans, dumping in what should be illegal amounts of sugar, and then mashing them all up until they are of your desired consistency (chunky? Smooth? Who knew Skippy had such a global perspective on his recipes?), and then cooled. Anko is used in a plethora of Japanese sweets (I'm not even exaggerating. Go ahead, count 'em! One plethora, two plethora, three plethora...). The funny thing is, lots of people don't like anko, because--here's the paradox of the century--it's too sweet. Even for Japanese people, and they're the ones who are all "ooooh, milk shakes, it's just sugar!" or "M n M's?! How can you eat so much chocolate it's so sweet!" It's like, harrro! Have never had anko you crazy person? That stuff is like diabetes to go. And the icing on the cake, of course, is that we sandwich anko with castella. (I recommend green or hojicha tea straight-up as your accompanying beverage.)
So, me. I am not a huge fan of anko, so dorayaki is something I don't buy for myself unless my Japanese sweet tooth is begging for it (my left is Japanese, my right is American). But over the summer a friend kindly brought with her extra-special dorayaki, each with a different filling including custard, pumpkin, the standard anko and--whaaat's this??--curry. As a certified, die-hard, no-nonsense curry freak (not to mention castella fan), I was elated when nobody claimed the curry dora-chan as their own and I was left to taste-test it. Dear God, please don't let it be a sugared-up curry! ...I thought, truthfully, just as I unwrapped it. But on the other hand, I was just as anxious about it being a regular salty curry sandwiched between castella.
The only-mildly spicy curry was complemented well by slivers of almonds--it all worked to be classifed, still, as a sweet! And definitely a stylish omiyage (souvenir/gift) to give. (Especially when they are assorted so well. Thank Kahori!!)
Oh readers, you are going to kill me, I have no idea where they are from!! I'm pretty sure its in the Nihonbashi/Mitsukoshi-mae area. Anyone who finds out, do let me know!!
* To be absolutely fair, castella deserves to be called more than "cake". In fact, it's one of the best things in the world. And as a true castella lover, I'd like to refer you to the outstanding video illustrating the process of making this cake by Fukusaya, hands-down my favorite castella maker in Japan. And now I see why they're so great; they have robots working for them!! Human-looking ones!!
** Depa-chika are department store basements--"chika" in Japanese--and that's where the Japanese goverment hides all the good food from the North Koreans. Just kidding, but that is where all the good food is. From bento to deli items to designer fruit baskets to Belgium chocolates to wagashi, it's all here.