Taiyaki are the popular fish-shaped Japanese sweets you may have seen in anime, at Japanese festivals or on Japanese Instagram pages. Because you can hold them in one hand and take them on the go, they are one the most popular Japanese street foods sold at stands and food trucks all over Japan.
A taiyaki’s exterior is made of crispy fried batter, similar to that of a waffle. Usually, this fish-shaped pastry is filled with sweet adzuki bean paste (sweet red bean paste), but you can find many different taiyaki flavors and fillings, ranging from custard cream to ice cream and even curry! Taiyaki is hard to find outside of Japan or Japanese markets, so if you want to try this delicious street food anywhere else, you’ll have to make it yourself. But don’t worry, you can enjoy this delicious fish-shaped bread without traveling to Japan. We’ve got you covered, read on and find out how you can make it at home!
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Tai translates to "sea bream", while yaki means "to bake" or "to fry". So, taiyaki means ‘fried/baked sea bream’. The name might make you think of a savory fried fish dish, but that couldn’t be further from the truth! This fish-shaped pastry is a sweet Japanese treat made to look like a sea bream, but definitely doesn’t taste like one.
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But why is this weird Japanese snack sea bream-shaped? Perhaps, because sea bream is considered an auspicious fish in Japan and is usually only eaten during celebrations. So when you eat taiyaki, it’s like it’s own little celebration!
However, taiyaki was not originally fish-shaped. The snack was circular in shape and called imagawayaki (a Japanese pastry filled with adzuki paste). There are many theories about why it was called imagawayaki, but the main one is that this Japanese snack was sold near Imagawa Bridge during the Edo period (today’s Kanda, Tokyo). In the Meiji era, these circular sweets took on the familiar fish shape, which made them explode in popularity.
This unique fish pastry is so popular, in fact, that you can find them all over Japan today from convenience stores to full-on taiyaki shops. It is also gaining worldwide recognition, with shops like Taiyaki NYC spreading the fish-shaped love.
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How to Make Taiyaki at Home
Here is our ultimate taiyaki recipe, so you can make this summer festival snack yourself!
- 1 cup (150g) of cake or pancake flour (you can also substitute half the flour with ½ cup mochiko rice flour instead. This will give your taiyaki a mochi-like texture)
- 1 tsp of baking powder
- 1 tsp of baking soda
- 2 tbsp of sugar
- 1 pinch of salt
- 200 ml, or ¾ cup of whole milk
- 1 egg
Other ingredients and equipment
- Neutral tasting vegetable oil for greasing the pan
- Filling of your choice (usually red bean paste, about 100g)
- Taiyaki maker (a fish-shaped griddle)
Popular taiyaki fillings include
- Sweet adzuki bean paste, also called anko
- Sweet Potato paste
- Chestnut paste (sometimes mixed with the sweet red bean paste)
- Fruit jelly or jam
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How To Make Taiyaki Without a Taiyaki Pan
- Try using a regular waffle iron, but be careful not to overstuff with filling.
- Fry the batter in a pan, the way you would a pancake. Once cooked, fold it in half around the filling. You can even use a mixture of instant coffee to make a fish pattern on the pancake, following this YouTube tutorial.
Once you have prepared your ingredients, let’s get cooking!
- In a mixing bowl, stir the dry ingredients together.
- Add a small amount of milk, just enough for the batter to form a paste. Continue adding gradually while mixing to avoid lumps in the batter.
- Add the egg and mix well.
- Cover and refrigerate for 1-2 hours.
- Heat the taiyaki pan and brush with oil.
- Over medium-low heat, pour the batter into the taiyaki maker’s mold. Fill both sides of the fish mold, up to about 60% full, so it doesn’t overflow onto the sides of the pan.
- Let the batter cook for a few seconds.
- Place your fillings in the center of the batter.
- Close the lid and flip the taiyaki mold.
- Cook for 2-3 minutes on one side.
- Flip the pan and cook for 1-2 minutes on the other side. Remember, different molds have different cooking times, so be sure to keep a close eye on your first batch, until you find the sweet spot for your mold.
- Open the mold to check if the taiyaki is cooked (they should be golden brown in color, with a crispy exterior).
- Place on a baking rack or plate to cool.
- Enjoy your taiyaki!
To reheat pre-cooked taiyaki, you can place them in a toaster oven, or fry them in a pan with a bit of oil. You can also use the microwave, but your taiyaki will lose some of its crispiness.