A debut cookbook by pastry chef Hadley Sui, AB’15, was inspired by anime.
When Hadley Sui, AB’15, arrived in Japan in 2010, she had studied Japanese for one semester. She knew the hiragana and katakana alphabets, and that was about it.
Two weeks later she started classes at a Japanese high school. Luckily Sui, a Rotary Club exchange student, had already graduated from high school in Urbana, Illinois, “so the pressure was off,” she says. Her strongest subject was gym, but even that was demanding: the students were training to run a half marathon.
During her year abroad, Sui fell in love with Japan, “where I feel most inspired,” she writes in her debut cookbook, Oishisou!! The Ultimate Anime Dessert Cookbook (Insight Editions, 2022). She returned to Japan in 2013 as a junior at UChicago, spending a year at Doshisha University in Kyoto. In a class on Japanese artisans, Sui visited workshops that had existed for generations, and for her final project wrote about wagashi, Japanese sweets eaten during tea ceremonies.
Wagashi “are usually no more than a few bites,” she says. “The ephemeral nature pulled me in. So much work and effort put into preparing these beautiful things that are destroyed in two seconds.” Back in Chicago, she won a Festival of the Arts grant, which she used to create wagashi inspired by Botany Pond, the Reynolds Club seal, and the cherry blossom trees behind the Museum of Science and Industry.
An international studies major, Sui held internships at the Japanese consulate and the Japan America Society of Chicago. But by the time she graduated, she was feeling burned out on academics and had realized “my future did not lie in diplomacy,” she says. Instead she enrolled at the French Pastry School in downtown Chicago.
Sui is now a freelance food stylist, recipe developer, and owner of Hadley Go Lucky, a “bespoke pastry company” based in Brooklyn, New York. Sui did all the food styling for Oishisou!!—pronounced “OH-ee-she-so,” which means “that looks tasty.”
The 60-plus recipes are organized by the locations where you would buy or eat the pastries, Sui writes: matsuri (festivals), konbini (convenience stores), panya (bakeries), dagashiya (candy stores), ie ni (at home), issho ni (to share). Each recipe lists examples of anime where you can see the pastry being consumed.
For example, dorayaki (shown at top of page), which are “typically composed of two fluffy and moist pancakes sandwiching red bean paste, chestnuts, or cream,” Sui writes. They can be seen in Shōwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjū, Nisekoi, and High School Fleet. Sui’s favorite anime focus on “slice-of-life high school experiences,” she says, “so that’s the genre I really focus on.”
In Season 2 of Shōwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjū, one scene opens with Shinnosuke enjoying a fresh dorayaki pancake sandwich at a rakugo theater. Rakugo is a traditional Japanese art of comedic storytelling in which a lone performer sits on a cushion on a raised platform and tells humorous tales. The art form is still prominent in Japan and can be seen at specialty theaters called yose. Whether you’re watching rakugo live at a theater or viewing an anime on your favorite streaming platform, dorayaki pancakes are a perfect companion snack.
Dorayaki is typically composed of two fluffy and moist pancakes sandwiching red bean paste, chestnuts, or cream. Dorayaki have been around since antiquity, but the modern round pancake shape was introduced during the Edo period (1603–1868 AD). Modern dorayaki, which are also influenced by the European castella cake, were introduced in 1914 by a shop called Usagiya in Ueno, Tokyo. To give them a little anime twist, I’m including tie-dye and miniature chibi versions of this classic dessert here.
Time: 30 minutes
Yield: 6 pancake sandwiches
1 teaspoon pickled sakura blossoms
1 tablespoon wildflower honey
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons water
4 tablespoons sugar
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ cup all-purpose flour
2-4 drops pink gel food coloring
2-4 drops purple gel food coloring
2-4 drops blue gel food coloring
½ cup white bean paste
- Soak pickled sakura blossoms in a small bowl of water for 15 minutes to remove excess salt.
- In a medium bowl, mix together the honey, eggs, water, and sugar. In a separate bowl, whisk together the baking powder and the flour. Then pour the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and mix together. Let the batter rest for 5 minutes.
- While waiting for the batter to rest, heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Do not use butter or oil, as they can cause browning on your rainbow pancakes.
- Divide your batter into three equal portions in three separate medium bowls. Add a different gel food coloring color to each bowl and mix until the color is evenly distributed.
- Pour the colored batter from two of the bowls into your third bowl. Using a toothpick, gently swirl the colors together so that they intertwine but are still distinct.
- Spoon 1 tablespoon of batter onto the skillet. Cook on medium-low heat for 30 seconds and flip to cook the other side. After another 30 seconds, remove from the skillet. Make 12 of these pancakes.
- Pat the sakura blossoms dry with a paper towel, and then chop them and mix them with the white bean paste. Place this mixture in a small piping bag.
- Pipe approximately 1 teaspoon of the bean paste mixture onto 6 of the pancakes using a round piping tip.
- Place the remaining 6 pancakes onto each pancake topped with the bean paste, creating 6 pancake sandwiches.
Excerpted from Oishisou!! The Ultimate Anime Dessert Cookbook by Hadley Sui. Copyright © 2022 by Hadley Sui. Used with permission.