Friday, July 16, 2010

japanese food: donuts

We headed to Japan with many things that we wanted to eat. Among our culinary priorities loomed Japan's gourmet donuts. Donuts were everywhere in Tokyo; it seemed as though a Mister Donut chain was on every corner. We never did get around to eating at Mister Donut, but we were not disappointed by the smaller donut shops that we patronized.

First we searched for (and found) Hara Donuts in Shimokitazawa. Like most shops in this area, it was tiny and super cute.

We opted for three varieties: plain, tomato, and grapefruit. None of them were overly oily or too dense. Similar to a cake donut but lighter, Hara's donuts were subtly sweet and a bit chewy. The grapefruit, with its citrus-y glaze, was my favorite by far. The tomato was not as weird or as interesting as we had hoped as it was somewhat bland and also tougher than the other two.

hara donuts: grapefruit, plain, and tomato

When visiting Yamanashi Prefecture, we had hoped to visit Sendaiya Donuts, whose claim to fame is making treats out of ground natto flour. Using natto, a fermented soybean product, is apparently an attempt to make the sweets more healthy.

When our hosts took us to their friends' house, we were offered two unexpected items to sample: Sendaiya's donuts and natto.


Natto smells like a strong cheese and tastes (to our American palates) somewhat like coffee. The texture is unlike anything I'd ever had before: think baked beans suspended in phlegm. Matt was not a fan to say the least, while I thought it paired nicely with some kimchi or spicy mustard. I've also seen it served with rice, which I would definitely try.

I will not be eating natto every morning for breakfast as does one person we met, but I will certainly gobble up some natto donuts from Sendaiya at any chance I get.

sendaiya donuts: sesame, plain

These donuts were dense and moist, much like a pound cake (which we saw on many menus). Like Hara donuts, Sendaiya's are also lightly sweetened and fried compared to American donuts.

We saved the best for last...drumroll, please!

In the last few days of our trip, we headed to Yoyogi-Uehara in the rain, specifically to try Harrits Donuts.

harrit's donuts: milk tea & precious little packages

Staying with the trend of the donuts we tried, these were subtle, light, and tended toward being a healthier breakfast treat. The texture was somewhere between a cake and raised donut and even resembled a pastry somewhat.

cinnamon cranberry donut

kinako (soybean flour) donut

cream-cheese-filled donut...ichiban!

Along with the flavors we tasted in the store, we also took some home in our carry-on to share with family. Those included carrot-honey, kiwi, green tea with Azuki bean paste, and more of our favorites, kinako and cream cheese.

I would recommend any of these donut shops without reservation. If you're ever in the area, it's worth seeking them out!

If you have tried Mister Donut, I'm curious: did we miss out?

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