This certainly doesn’t help the stereotype that Japan will put corn on top of anything.
While on a routine patrol of the Internet for further gastronomic adventures, Mr. Sato was tipped off to a bakery in Gyoda City, Satiama, that’s famous for its unique creations. For example, during the New Year’s holidays this bakery takes a traditional seasonal meal, the elegant and expensive osechi…
…and crams it all into a hot dog bun.
But more than that, this bakery, by the name of Suigyokudo, is rumored to have an eccentric list of shaved ice flavors as well. Considering a pool of sweat had accumulated in the touchpad of Mr. Sato’s laptop by this point, a nice frozen treat would really hit spot, no matter what crazy flavor came his way.
So, it was off to Gyoda!
Anyone wanting to follow in Mr. Sato’s footsteps should note that Gyoda Station, the closest to where Suigyokudo is located, doesn’t have many trains running through in a day. Make sure you check the schedule and plan accordingly.
On the other hand, if you’re going by car from Tokyo you just have to head down Route 125 until you see the old architecture of the Suigyokudo storefront or, failing that, the statue of two pensive-looking naked kids.
Mr. Sato was actually taken aback by the classical look of a cafe famous for its bizarre creations that turn the convention of baked goods upside down. This looked just like a traditional family business that’s been around for a century.
Then again, upon closer inspection, the front door had various sheets of paper posted with nonsensical graffiti-like pictures and rambling. There was an announcement of some LINE stamps and what appeared to be a cheat code to some unnamed NES game.
At this point Mr. Sato braced himself to enter Pee Wee’s Playhouse and walked through the door…
The retro shelves were lined with what appeared to be modest and wholesome looking breads like something out of a Rockwell painting.
Mr. Sato’s neck still smarted from the mood whiplash, but he managed to turn it just enough to peruse the shaved ice menu. “Strawberry,” “plum,” “mango,” and “sour cherry,” where all there. Nothing too mind-blowing…oh wait a minute.
“Grilled corn” and “gyoza” (pot sticker dumplings) could also be found among this eclectic range of tastes. Mr. Sato thought the Grilled Corn sounded interesting but cautiously ordered a small for 250 yen (US$2.20).
Served with a side of soy sauce, Mr. Sato took a moment to consider this concept. Shaved ice is usually considered a sweet snack, but why wouldn’t other tastes like salty or sour match as well? After all, ice is pretty much a blank slate when it comes to flavoring.
Really though, the corn was a sweet taste which was just sharpened a little bit by the salty soy sauce. Everything blended together quite nicely with the crunchy texture of the ice. It was a taste similar to the popular mitarashi dango sweets which use a sweet soy sauce coating or filling.
However, Mr. Sato would advise that anyone trying the Grilled Corn Shaved Ice should only add the soy sauce a little at a time, or it will all pool into the bottom for an uneven blast of salty soy sauce ice.
On such a hot day, that corn snow cone really hit the spot. It was enough to encourage Mr. Sato to try out the gyoza shaved ice. However, when he ordered it, the staff asked “Are you sure?”
He was told it was a strong flavor. Apparently it’s one of the more experimental shaved ices and all of the kinks might not have been worked out yet.
Surprisingly…or not (it was hard to say what was surprisingly anymore at that point) the gyoza shaved ice looked like an average shaved ice with some flavor sauce on top.
However, as he leaned in to take a bite, a pungent aroma punched Mr. Sato in the face. Eating a spoonful, the flavors of garlic and chives plumed in his mouth. If he were eating this sauce with something like rice to absorb the flavors it wouldn’t be as intense, but with ice the savory tastes seemed to be amplified instead.
That’s not to say it was bad, however. In fact, people who enjoy bold tastes would probably quite enjoy the gyoza shaved ice. Mr. Sato, however felt that a little more balance would be needed for this to have mass appeal.
Nevertheless, it made Mr. Sato excited to be a part of this taste experiment. It was interesting to know that in this conservative atmosphere was a mad scientist of food hard at work coming up with new concepts adding to the already rich tapestry of shaved ice flavors in Japan. We’ll all look forward to what they come up with next.
Suigyokudo / 翠玉堂
Saitama-ken, Gyoda-shi, Gyoda 5-7
Open 11 a.m.-7 p.m.
Shaved ice available noon-5:30 p.m.
[ Read in Japanese ]