Almost every city in the world has a treat particular to it’s region. New York has it’s Cheesecake, London’s scones and jam, Chocolate Eclairs in Paris, Adelaide’s Frog Cakes, and in the case of Nagoya, that sweet is the Oni Manju, or Devil’s Cakes! And if you want to make a good impression on your Nagoyan contacts, or even folks in other parts of Japan, presenting them with a batch of Oni Manju will open doors for you!
Admittedly they aren’t much to look at! They’re a bright yellow color, rather lumpy looking things about 12 centimeters in diameter, more akin something pre-school kids would make with yellow play-dough than a local delicacy, but you can really sink your teeth into the sweet and satisfying, slightly chewy treat. Oni Manju are made from sweet potato, caster, or millet sugar and glutinous rice flour steamed together to make the distinctive bright yellow, doughy bun with a fragrant aroma.
The cakes received their name from their peculiar, lumpy look caused by the chunks of sweet potato, said to resemble the thickly studded clubs, “kanabo”, carried by Japanese devils.
The Oni Manju of Nagoya are especially famous, none more so than those from Baikadou, a small blink-and-you’d-miss-it shop located minutes out of the city centre in Kakuozan, along the major Hirokoji Doori road. There are only 2 car parking spaces, and so you’ll often find cars stopped out front on the side of the road with their hazard lights flashing while the owners wait in line for the treats. There is no room to sit inside the tiny Japanese sweet specialty shop, it’s take-away only! Located 200 meters east of the Kakuozan subway station, Baikadou, despite it’s small size has a big reputation. The shop opens 8am to 6pm daily, although the popular Oni Manju go on sale from 9:15am. A long line can usually be found from early on, so to get one of the famed sweets you have to be early, or lucky, or both!
The Baikadou staff only make a limited number of the yellow devil cakes each day, and as they sell for as little as 120 Yen each, they disappear like,…devil cakes.