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TokyoTreat Japanese Snacks BlogTaiyaki Ice Cream: The Amazing Instagram Trend!

Taiyaki Ice Cream: The Amazing Instagram Trend!

Alana JuricAlana Juric
Published Time
Posted on 
August 04, 2021
Modified Time
Updated last 
January 19, 2023
A bowl of ube (purple sweet potato) taiyaki ice cream with a straw.

You might already know about taiyaki, the delicious fish-shaped Japanese street food. Recently, it has garnered international attention for its cute fish shape and tasty fillings. Now that the sweltering summer months are upon us, the fish dessert has sparked a new trend: taiyaki ice cream!

You may have seen pictures of this “cool” combination on your Instagram feeds in the form of cute fish-shaped cones holding scoops of ice cream in their mouths. Let’s find out about this trend taking over the world of taiyaki!

What is taiyaki?

Taiyaki is made from a waffle-like batter baked in a fish-shaped mold and filled with red bean paste, similar to Japanese sweets like dorayaki (a Japanese red bean pancake). It resembles a tai (red seabream), a Japanese symbol of good luck and celebration.

A person is making traditional red bean taiyaki on a molded grill.
Taiyaki is a trendy street food. Image via Shutterstock

Taiyaki’s origins date back to the Edo era. The original taiyaki, or imagawayaki (a Japanese stuffed pancake), was circular rather than fish-shaped. Around one hundred years ago, during the Meiji era, a shop came up with the idea of making the circular sweet into the shape of a tai, thus creating the taiyaki we know today. 

A hand holding up some custard-filled taiyaki.
Taiyaki also features custard filling. Image via Shutterstock

We don’t know who invented the first taiyaki, but the trend caught on quickly, becoming one of the most popular Japanese street foods. One of the oldest shops is Naninwaya Souhonten, which began making taiyaki in 1909. You can still purchase their original handmade taiyaki there today. 

A hand holding up a sakura or cherry blossom taiyaki, just in time for hanami season.
There’s taiyaki for all seasons, especially when cherry blossoms come around in the spring! Image via Shutterstock

You can also find taiyaki sold at stalls and shops all over Japan, especially during festivals. Typical fillings include azuki (red bean) paste, sweet potato, chestnut, cream, and chocolate. You can even find taiyaki year-round at most Japanese convenience stores, including 7-11 and Lawson.

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New York City: The birthplace of taiyaki ice cream!

Taiyaki ice cream is one Japanese food trend you can hop on even if you live in the USA. The shop which began the trend is actually located in New York City! Taiyaki NYC took this traditional Japanese street food to another level by turning taiyaki into ice cream cones. 

A hand holding some taiyaki ice cream. The pastry is dark and the ice cream is chocolate flavored and covered in sprinkles.
This treat is very photogenic! Image via Shutterstock

These “cones” are cooked like genuine taiyaki. The shop uses the traditional waffle-like batter, making them softer in texture than usual ice cream cones. The taiyaki ice cream cones are cooked on-site in a giant rotating fish-shaped mold, but with a slightly different shape. The mouth of the fish is open, ready to welcome a heaping scoop of ice cream.

Someone holding a vanilla taiyaki ice cream with sprinkles in with a city in the background.
This vanilla taiyaki ice cream looks downright delicious! Image via Shutterstock

The base of the fish, in proper taiyaki form, is filled with either anko (sweet red bean paste) or custard. You can choose your favorite soft-serve Japanese ice cream flavor from a wide variety, including vanilla, matcha, black sesame, or chocolate. Toppings include sprinkles, graham cracker crumbs, mini M&Ms, and mochi. The result is a delicious and totally Instagrammable dessert!

A hand holding some matcha ice cream covered in sprinkles.
Like most Japanese ice cream, we can’t forget about matcha! Image via Shutterstock

To get your hands on these pretty fishies, you can head to Taiyaki NYC’s locations in NYC in Queens, Manhattan, Chinatown, Flushing, and Williamsburg. You can also find them outside of NYC in Miami, Boston, and Toronto.

What about taiyaki ice cream on the West Coast?

If you’re on the West Coast, there is another taiyaki ice cream brand for you! Somisomi is a US-based chain serving ice cream in cones made from the Korean version of taiyaki, ah-boong. It has locations all over California, some in Texas and one in Las Vegas, with more places to come!

The storefront of SomiSomi, a West Coast-based chain focused on Asian pastries.
Somisomi is a major chain in the Western United States that makes Asian pastries. Image via Shutterstock

Like Taiyaki NYC, Somisomi offers different fillings for your fish-shaped waffle cones, like custard, chocolate hazelnut Nutella, red bean, red bean with cream cheese, or taro. Then, add a scoop of your favorite ice cream flavor, including milk, matcha, ube, or black sesame. Somisomi has too many toppings, even more than Taiyaki NYC, with options like oreo crumbs, strawberry bits, and macarons.

But they have taiyaki ice cream in Japan, right?

In Tokyo, stores serve taiyaki with a side of ice cream rather than the pastry itself. Some restaurants includeTaiyaki Hiragi in Shibuya and Kurikoan near Iidabashi. At some stands and ice cream shops in summer, you can also purchase frozen taiyaki as a cool treat.

A plate of Japanese-style taiyaki ice cream, this time with the vanilla ice cream on the side.
Taiyaki ice cream in Japan is more straightforward! Image via Shutterstock

Sadly, none of these stores are as aesthetic as the fish-shaped ice cream cones of Taiyaki NYC or Somisomi. Will this modern twist on the 100-year-old treat catch on in Japan too? Only time will tell.

If you aren’t near one of Somisomi or Taiyaki NYC’s locations, you can try learning how to make taiyaki at home. Add a scoop of ice cream to get your own taiyaki ice cream!

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