Indian icing on Japanese cake

Anime character Doraemon loves dorayaki, the sweet pancake-sandwich popular in Japan. And  Masahiro Monoi from Tokyo ensures that the children of Mangaluru get to relish the favourite

Published: 24th December 2017 02:52 AM  |   Last Updated: 24th December 2017 08:09 AM   |  A+A-

Masahiro Monoi preparing dorayaki cake I Rajesh Shetty Ballalbagh

Express News Service

MANGALURU: Anime character Doraemon loves dorayaki, the sweet pancake-sandwich popular in Japan. And  Masahiro Monoi from Tokyo ensures that the children of Mangaluru get to relish the favourite snack of their beloved robotic cat. “When I first made dorayaki cakes, I added 45% sugar. The tasters asked if it was bread. I revised it with 65-70% sugar, and then they said, now this is sweet. Subsequently took shape the customised palatable dorayaki which suited those with sweet tooth,” says Masahiro Monoi. There is a palatable side, and sometimes the opposite in every culture. “I try to bring the good part here - punctuality and cleanliness,” he says.

Masahiro has settled in Mangaluru, and is one of the eight Japanese settlers here. He moved to the city five years ago and has adapted to it in its quaint and quiet form. He is the first to bring the Doremon franchise to the city, and his dorayaki cakes can be found on bakery shelves this Christmas season. His customers mostly include teenagers and pre-teens who have enjoyed Doraemon on television.  “It is a fast moving item, and there have been no complaints in the past two years. Mostly children pick the cake; they call it ‘Doremon Cake’,” recalls the accountant at Vas and Sons Bakery.

Three years ago, when Masahiro sold Japanese imported items, knives, chopsticks, wooden dolls by Usaburo, handicrafts, kitchen utensils, Mugicha and dorayaki cakes, he went with the demand. Dorayaki was an instant hit, and it grew with each passing year.Masahiro is a popular teacher too. He  runs the first Japanese language centre in the city. “There was high demand for the language, but no school taught it. So, I learnt how to teach Japanese from miss Abi Hara, and have so far taught about 80-90 students individually.” He also imparts information on Japanese currency, food, social systems, fermentation and cooking without fire to students of at least six prestigious schools and colleges in the city.

On his decision of shifting to India, he says, “I wanted to start a business outside of Japan. While a few suggested Vietnam and Taiwan, some said India had a future. I was looking for a place with potential. A friend then recommended Mangaluru to me. I liked this city. The water here is nice, so are the people and culture, particularly the rice culture.” “Japan sees four kinds of weather. In Mangaluru, we have only summer, rains, and sometimes winter,” he replies with a smile when asked if he faced any problem in adjusting to the Indian climate. “But it is very economical. As there is no winter, I can wear half-sleeved shirts round the year. It is probably snowing in Japan now,” he quips.

However, there is no missing home for Masahiro. “I have a heart-to-heart connection. I have noticed that Indians call up and talk to their families. For Japanese, it’s about the people around us.”Over the five years that Masahiro has been here, he has seen a growth in continental food, many outlets for pizzas and burgers, and a microbrewery in the city. He too has grown to like the city and its charms. “I tell my Japanese friends, Mangaluru is easy, calm, peaceful. I like the  people here. In Japan, if a commoner falls on the street, nobody stops to help. Here, if I look tired, people ask me if I am alright or if I need something. People here are similar to those in the south of Japan,  warm-hearted and very helpful.”

‘Indian curries popular in Japan’
Masahiro says that Indian curries are popular in Japan. Only the spice level is reduced. “Indian food works on a ‘no spice no taste’ concept,” he adds. The sev puri sold outside St Aloysius College tastes like Japanese food. So does Indaad - a little sweet and a little spicy, he draws a parallel. One can find Masahiro visiting Shetty Lunch Home and Gutthu often to get his dose of sukkha and ghee roast

Made in India miso
Masahiro has also learnt how to make miso in India. “In 2014, I started making miso. But since the climates of Japan and India are different, I had to do research for two years. I had to Indianise it. In 2016, I started selling miso to Japanese restaurants here, and the demand has picked up. Miso and miso-related items have a wide consumer base due to their enormous health benefits,” he says, adding that he is happy to be one of the two in India producing and selling the product. Today, his company Japcul Style manufactures and distributes miso to Bengaluru and Chennai.  When asked about his other popular product--’a chilli seasoning,’ he reveals it has 20% chilli. “We sprinkle a little if we think the food requires spice,” he says. He further adds, “When I first came here, I could not eat green chilli. I would always ask for ‘less spicy’. But now, I can eat without asking to moderate the spice levels. I serve miso soup to my Indian friends with extra red chilli.”


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