Taiyaki are a beloved traditional Japanese snack that's a must-try when you visit the country. Since the early 1900’s, they have spread all over the Japanese archipelago, becoming one of the most beloved Japanese street foods over time. But as this delicacy has spread around, it has tended to pick up new variants and flavors along the way.
But first – What is taiyaki?
Taiyaki are a Japanese fish shaped cake that are commonly enjoyed as street food in Japan. First gaining popularity in the early 1900’s as an evolution from its predecessor Imagawayaki, it is made of pancake or waffle batter with a filling, commonly anko (sweet red bean paste) or custard.
They are then baked in iron skillets in the shape of fish (the tai/sea bream was thought to be both lucky and a rare delicacy). This results in a soft and fluffy warm treat with a sweet filling. You can find it in sweet shops, sweet carts and often at summer festival stalls.
White Mochi Taiyaki – Kyoto
A must visit location for any fan of traditional Japanese sweets and snacks is Kyoto. Cultivating and perfecting their traditional sweets over the past centuries, Kyoto is a must visit place for anything matcha or mochi related.
This treat is much like the famous white taiyaki, which is only available in summer months. Filled with mochi and azuki and using a rare type of flour that results in a white batter, its unique point is how chewy and addictive it is from the very first bite.
Sega Taiyaki Limited Editions – Tokyo
Sega, best known for Sonic the Hedgehog, operates one of the most popular chains of video game arcades in Japan. But playing games is a hungry business, and what is better than a piping hot taiyaki to go with a day full of video games?
Sega have opened up taiyaki stores all over Japan inside their arcades to provide their players with tasty treats. But in both shape and size, these Sega-fied taiyaki are not typical. Sega's taiyaki has come in many inventive and interesting shapes, often resembling anime or game characters. These exciting editions are often limited-time only as well. Tokyo's Akihabara district in particular is a hotspot for these fun taiyaki variations.
We went on a journey to enjoy the Demon Slayer taiyaki, which was only available in two stores in the whole of Japan, Tokyo’s Akihabara (you guessed it) and Ikebukuro stores. Check out our full review of the Demon Slayer taiyaki here.
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Zunda Mochi Taiyaki – Sendai
Sendai, located a fair bit north of the capital Tokyo, is the main anchor of the Tohoku region. And one of their most famous products is edamame, a popular type of soybean snack. This is then processed into a bright green paste called zunda, which is one of the most representative foods of the region and always a hit with tourists.
Creative taiyaki makers in the area combined the famous edamame paste with chewy mochi to create something truly unique to the area. The soft and chewy filling is perfectly juxtaposed with the crispy fish shaped batter on the outside. Don’t miss it if you visit the area!
Matcha Taiyaki – Kyoto
The tea capital of Japan is arguably Kyoto. Dating back almost 1000 years, high quality matcha tea leaf production has been one of Kyoto’s proudest products. It’s understandable why many Kyoto taiyaki makers choose this as a delicious variation.
Some makers choose to make a matcha paste while others opt for an azuki red bean and matcha combination for a sweet and rich treat. Truly a must try when visiting the area.
Daibutsu-Yaki (Buddha Taiyaki) – Nara
Nara is home to some of the largest and oldest Buddha statues in Japan. Historically, Nara was the capital city of Japan before it moved to Kyoto and then Tokyo. So if you’re hoping to take in Japan’s culture, Nara is a must on any intrepid traveler's itinerary.
But to take in this historic culture, you’re not limited to just observing. Why not try a Buddha statue shaped taiyaki? They are filled with a tofu cream, rich and thick, almost like a cream cheese with a unique Japanese spin. Between the beautiful statues and the taiyaki they inspired, you’ll never forget your time in Nara.
No need to miss out on the fun!
Getting your hands on these rare taiyaki can be difficult unless you’re in Japan. But there is no need to miss out on tasty taiyaki no matter where you are in the world. Check what is coming in this month’s Japanese snack and candy box. There might just be a taiyaki-inspired treat waiting!
Which of these delicious and inventive taiyaki variants sound best to you? Let us know what you think in the comments below!
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