Mister Donut is one of the most popular doughnut chains in all of Japan, and their signature pastry, the Pon de Ring, is a delicious chewy concoction that is sought out by peckish snackers across the country. The chain has recently released a new savory version of their classic Pon de Ring, and in doing so, has incited a rivalry between eastern and western Japan. The “Pon de Senbatsu” campaign puts eight new regional flavors, four from both east and west, against each other in a battle for the best doughnut. Since our offices are located on Japan’s east side, we decided to try out our regional sweet potato, miso kiritanpo, seaweed rice cracker, and sweet sesame dumpling doughnuts.
Hokkaido’s Pon de Sweet Potato doughnut
Just as the name implies, the Pon de Sweet Potato doughnut has a sweet potato filling. But that’s not all! The doughnut’s center also includes a cream filling, which gives the snack a wonderful butter flavor, just what you’d expect from a doughnut representing Hokkaido, an area famous for fresh milk products.
There are plenty of doughnuts that incorporate cream and butter, but adding sweet potato makes this a rare treat. As you might expect, the Pon de Sweet Potato is sweet, but not overpoweringly so. For those who like sweet cream-filled snacks, this is one doughnut you won’t want to put down.
Tohoku’s Pon de Miso Kiritanpo
Akita’s specialty dish of fire-toasted rice cake, kiritanpo, is the inspiration for the Pon de Miso Kiritanpo. The flavor of the doughnut version stays true to the original, with the characteristically fragrant miso taking center stage. With a sweet and salty finish, it’s the perfect match for Mister Donut’s Pon de Ring.
The doughnut’s cream filling includes rice, making it especially chewy even for the tapioca-based Pon de Ring and although Mister Donut has stayed true to the image of kiritanpo, it is still definitely reminiscent of a doughnut.
Kōshin’etsu region’s Pon de Nori Senbei (seaweed rice cracker)
Here we have a totally new way to eat a doughnut: wrapped in seaweed. Our writers were completely skeptical of this new idea of wrapping seaweed around a sweet dessert, but tried the new concoction anyway. It turns out, the flavor is quite plain. Mister Donut must have toned down the sweetness in order to match the subtlety of seaweed. The combination is surprisingly pleasant, perfect for those who enjoy mildly sweet desserts.
Yokohama’s Pon de Goma Dango (sweet sesame dumplings)
Here’s a doughnut inspired by the sweet sesame dumplings of Yokohama’s Chinatown. The Pon de Goma Dango is by far the crunchiest of the bunch. With a sweet bean paste center and sugary coating, this is a particularly sweet doughnut. However, the sweetness is expertly balanced with the savory sesame topping, making it a not-too-sweet snack. It is a surprisingly refined doughnut that will appeal to not only children, but adults as well.
Each doughnut is undeniably satisfying, even though most would initially question the deliciousness of such strange combinations. All eight Pon de Senbatsu doughnuts are on sale now for 140 yen (US$1.36), and you can even vote for your favorite until March 23.
[ Read in Japanese ]