Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Pandemic Melon Pan

An acceptable substitute, given the situation

Hello blog, it’s been awhile!

Like most of you, I’ve had little chance to be out and about in town recently, even though I’ve heard about new Japanese restaurants opening up, places closing down, changing hours, etc.

One thing I have noticed, in my neighbourhood at least, is the plethora of options for Japanese food available via delivery services that I had absolutely no idea existed. Normally I’m a bit meh on these apps, because I know a lot of them don’t give a fair cut to the restaurants, and when possible I want to support the restaurant directly. However, in the time of COVID, that’s harder than it used to be. Especially here in Toronto, where we’re under a state of emergency and all dine in options are completely closed.

I want to hope that the restaurants getting on board with DD or UE is helping spread the word that those restaurants exist and therefore are doing them at least a bit of service. I know I’ve found a couple new options in the neighbourhood and beyond that I never knew were even here.

Which brings me to the focus of today’s post!

A couple of weeks ago I started having intense cravings for melon pan. It’s been quite a while since I could get back to my regular source (....Japan), but my baking attempts in the past have also failed. I really just wanted to buy some and be done with it. I used up all my creative cooking/baking karma with the Dalgona phase (and subsequently a lot of Vietnamese egg coffees, steam milks and Thai iced tea batches) back at the beginning of the pandemic.

Muahaha, bring those tasty baked goods right to my door
In Toronto, traditional melon pan is harder to come by, and the only place I could think of that had it was Nakamura Bakery at J-Town in Markham. I thought to myself, well, I’m not willing to drive an hour for melon pan; not today, anyway. But surely something else more local must have popped up in the last 5 years!? Surely someone is making melon pan closer to downtown by this point!?

So I turned to the food delivery apps.

I did a couple of searches for Japanese food, and a couple of searches for melon pan, and I didn’t really find the traditional type that I was looking for, but I found something else of interest. Not too long ago in Baldwin Village (and two other locations), a new shop called Hattendo appeared selling cream pan, originally from Hiroshima. I’d seen their shop in Japan a couple of times; I used to walk by one when I was passing through Yokohama station. But I’d never actually tried their bread. I thought, well, they have cream pan with a melon pan top on it, and black sesame lattes, and they deliver to my house, so let’s give it a go. Ooh! Seasonal flavours!!

Turns out they don't really photograph too well, though

Hattendo’s “melon pan” is a pretty distant cousin of traditional melon pan - what I was really getting was cream pan with a melon pan top, so the interior was unlike melon pan at all. However, it did scratch that itch a little for me. And it definitely opened my eyes to the fact that there are a lot of good Japanese options that have surfaced in Toronto over the past few years.

Since melon pan day, we’ve also ordered in from Little Pebbles, a Japanese bakery in Kensington market, and I have several tasty looking izakaya dinner options marked for the next time we order in. There’s also a new ramen shop in the west end (an area that is sorely lacking in ramen at this point) called Musoshin, and they make shokupan! haven’t tried it yet, but looking forward to getting out there sometime and checking them out. Must be tough to open during this pandemic, so they probably need all the props they can get.

So the next time you’re craving Japanese food in Toronto, even if you want to go pick it up yourself to support the businesses, the delivery apps are actually excellent resources to find out what’s new around town.

In fact, I just discovered that I can get mochi donuts delivered to my house. Be right back...