Don’t be deceived, though! This is NOT a freshly grilled seafood dish, but a traditional pastry (shaped like a fish) that can be found throughout Japan. Traditionally taiyaki are baked fresh, with a soft pancake texture and sweet red bean filling. This sweet treat dates back as far as the Meiji period and is closely related to another Japanese snack called imagawayaki, which is circular in shape and is also filled with azuki beans.
Imagawayaki has been around since the Edo period, and has different counterparts throughout the nation such as Obanyaki (Kansai) and the Kaitenyaki (Kyuushu). A century after, Seijiro Kanbei, an Osaka native, Tokyo-based businessman created a fish shaped mold to help his product stand out. This became the first taiyaki we now know and love. His shop, Naniwaya Sohonten, still stands to this day in Azabujuban, Tokyo.
Since then, you’ll find the beloved Japanese fish shaped cake served warm and fresh during New Year shrine visits and the summer festivals alike. It can easily be enjoyed during the colder months, warming your hands on a winter night – but it also makes a great snack for a long summer adventure due its compact size and longevity.
Taiyaki has evolved in different ways to appeal to the modern consumer. Now, you can find them in all different shapes, sizes and flavors. One of the most memorable versions you’ll find is in the shape of Magikarp, or (Koiking in Japanese) with sweet, creamy custard filling inside. Chocolate, vanilla bean, purple potato, matcha cream and coffee bean paste are just some of the sweet fillings you can see and read about.
In the summer, taiyaki is often filled with soft serve ice cream or a cold and refreshing treat. Some shops also serve savory options such as pork bun fillings, tomato-based fillings, sausages, and a personal favorite – cream cheese and ham!
With so many options to choose from, you will definitely find a flavor combination out there that speaks to your heart.
Taiyaki is made under medium low heat to assure the whole pastry is golden brown and crisp and the filling is sufficiently warm. Traditional taiyaki recipes are very similar to waffle batter. Recently, though, taiyaki is most often made with cake flour or even tapioca flour (which makes for a very chewy cake similar to mochi). Using baking powder in the batter also helps ensure a light and fluffy interior with a crispy exterior.
The batter is first poured into a taiyaki mold over hot flames. Then, most commonly, it’s filled with sweet azuki bean paste. The mold is closed and flipped over the flames a few times to ensure it’s been evenly cooked on both sides. Taiyaki comes in different sizes, but generally it fits the palm of your hand.
The store that is said to have created Taiyaki. It was established during the Meiji period and has stood for a century and is loyally visited by tourists and local foodies throughout Tokyo. Naniwaya’s taiyaki’s key features are its thin and crispy wheat flour pastry and azuki beans from Tokachi, Hokkaido. Their special filling requires the azuki beans to be cooked in very low heat for eight hours to achieve the silky texture they’re famous for.
Kurikoan is the home of the magikarp shaped taiyaki with a creamy custard filling. They have even more unique shapes that are limited to different locations such as the train shaped taiyaki found in the Otsuka store. Kurikoan also offers seasonal Taiyaki fillings throughout the year, including azuki, chestnut, premium custard cream, purple yam, sweet potato, marron cream, strawberry and a lot of savory flavors as well!
Amane’s taiyaki is distinctive due to its extra crunchy border around the edges. It produces another layer of texture you could savor and enjoy. It is slightly sweet with a hint of brown sugar in its batter. Their azuki paste is generous and has a delicious chunky texture.
Located in Kyoto's famous bamboo forest, Arashiyama, Mamemono prides itself in actively selecting and using local ingredients. Some of the fillings they offer include royal custard, an-butter (azuki and butter), and of course, the quintessential azuki bean paste.
The next time you find yourself digging into a scrumptious taiyaki, stop to think about how exactly you’re eating it. Apparently, you can tell a person’s personality by the way they enjoy their taiyaki. If you eat the taiyaki head first, you are a passionate optimist who hates to lose with a mood that can change on the drop of a dime. Those who eat from the tail are cautious, fashionable and romantic, but can be rather insensitive. Those who eat from the fin are ones who want to be alone, but are actually very lonely. Those who eat from the stomach are open minded and kind, but clumsy. If you are the type to cut the taiyaki in half and eat from the head side, you are self driven, hard to influence, and have your own way of doing things. On the other hand, if you are the type to cut the taiyaki in half and eat it from the tail side, you are also strong willed, but cautious and serious.
How do you enjoy your Taiyaki? Did the way you enjoy your taiyaki reflect your personality or was it a huge miss? What are your favorite Taiyaki flavors, shops that you want to let us know about? Feel free to comment and share your thoughts in the comment box below!
Akihabara, Tokyo, is the mecca of everything related to anime, video games, and electronics! What kind of things can we do there? Let’s find out!
Tokyo during tsukimi season is a wonderful time for amazing attractions and awesome food! But what if you only had one night to enjoy it all?
As autumn approaches in Japan, the hearty chestnut comes into season. The chestnut is only available in the fall and winter.
From summer festivals to comic conventions, Japan has so much to offer during this season of warm weather! But what kind of fun are you looking to have in Japan when it heats up again? Let’s take a look at what you can expect during summer in Japan!
When it comes to dining out in Japan, knowing the rules and Japanese etiquette is vital for a smooth restaurant experience. Luckily, here at TokyoTreat we have the top 5 things you need to follow!
Pocky Day is an annual celebration in Japan on November 11th. This day gives the opportunity for fans to gather together and show their sweet appreciation for the tasty treat!