Taiyaki, Japanese Waffles 鯛焼き
Taiyaki, a popular snack at festivals
Credit: [cipher], Flickr
Taiyaki cooking in their fish-shaped moods
Credit: Daiju Azuma, Flickr
Credit: Takanori Nakanowatari, Flickr
Credit: Ocdp, Wikimedia
Japanese Fish-shaped Cake
For the Japanese, this little fish-shaped cake, traditionally filled with sweet red bean paste, evokes the festivals and fairy-tales of their childhood. It also found in specialized pastry shops. It is a must-try for foodies traveling to Japan.
WHAT IS TAIYAKI?
Taiyaki is a small waffle-like filled cake that is filled with a sweet filling and cooked in a waffle-like mold. The basic taiyaki recipe is inspired by Imagawayaki, a Japanese delicacy whose origin dates back to the 18th century. It was a waffle batter filled with anko, sweet azuki red bean paste. But while the Imagawayaki is round, the taiyaki is shaped like a fish, hence its name (literally "grilled sea bream"). Its size can vary but it measures approximately 15cm, perfect for a light snack. It can be eaten cold but is much better hot, just cooked. They usually costs around 100 to 300 yen, depending on the filling and where it is sold.
WHY IS TAIYAKI FISH SHAPED?
During the Meiji era, Imagawayaki sellers struck upon the idea of making these cakes in different shapes to increase sales. Molds in the shape of turtles were made and the cakes were sold under the name of Kameyaki ("grilled turtle") then the cakes were made in the shape of a rabbit, usagiyaki. But these new versions were not as successful as they hoped.
It is said that in 1909, an Imagawayaki seller named Seijiro Kanbei in Tokyo, had the idea of making these treats in the shape of fish, more precisely of sea bream. A very popular fish with the Japanese and whose name, tai, rhymes with "medetai" which means "joyful, auspicious, happy". This is the fish-shaped cake that we eat today to celebrate a happy event and is believed to bring good luck. There is even the expression: "tai wa medetai": "the sea bream is for celebrations".
Poorer people in Japan during this time would not have been able to afford sea bream, so this inexpensive and lucky snack became very popular.
Credit: Michael Ocampo, Flickr
A SIMPLE TAIYAKI RECIPE
The taiyaki batter is made from wheat flour, milk, eggs and sugar. The batter is poured into the two parts of a fish-shaped mold and then a filling is added to one side. Once the mold is closed withe the filling inside, the cake is cooked on both sides until it's golden brown and crisp.
Taiyaki in their molds
Credit: jpellgen (@1179_jp), Flickr
Taiyaki with ice cream
Credit: minoir, Flickr
Traditionally, taiyaki are filled with anko, azuki red bean paste, but over time, custard, chocolate, or more recently ice cream, cheese or even meat, there are also some more modern favors such as okonomiyaki or pizza. Of course, there is a sakura version, especially for the cherry blossom season.
The batter has also been adapted, we can now find are made with croissant dough. They are also filled with various ingredients such as anko, matcha green tea, or chocolate. Chains, "Croissant Taiyaki", have even appeared throughout the country.
WHERE TO TRY TAIYAKI?
Taiyaki is one of the must-have snacks sold at matsuri (traditional festival) and always attracts many customers. Young and old alike love its hot, crispy pancake-like dough with a sweet filling that melts in the mouth.
It can also be found in supermarket shelves or in konbini. They also have taiyaki molds available to buy, so you can make them yourself at home.
A PERSONALITY TEST!
For the Japanese, the way you eat this snack is important! They like to believe that how you start eating your taiyaki reveals your personality. Do you start with the head? You're an optimistic and rather serene, but sometimes aggressive person. Would you rather start eating from the tail? You are calm, romantic, but a little naive. Or perhaps neither tail nor head - do you bite into it from the side? This means that you're energetic, athletic and friendly.
So now you're warned, be careful when biting into your taiyaki!
HERE ARE SOME OF OUR FAVOURITE PLACES TO TRY TAIYAKI
For a "classic" taste:
This is the pastry shop where taiyaki were born in 1909, and more than 10 million have been sold since its creation!
Address: 1-8-14 Azabu-Juban, Minato-ku, Tokyo
Access: Azabu-Juban station, (Namboku, Oedo lines), exit 5b
Address: outside the entrance to the Flags Building, 3-37-1 Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo
Access: 3 minutes walk from the south exit of Shinjuku Odakyu station
- Kagurazaka Kurikoan
A tearoom where you can enjoy taiyaki, all hot with a drink (they go very well with green tea). Cost 1000 yen.
Address： 1F PORTA Kagurazaka, Kagurazaka 2-6-1 Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo
Access： 1-minute walk from exit B3 of Iidabashi metro station or 3 min. from JR Iidabashi station
- Tai Parfait in Yokohama
You can try taiyaki filled with fruit or ice cream.
Address: Yokohama World Porters 5F, 2-2-1 Shinko, Naka-ku, Yokohama-shi
Access: Minatomirai metro station (Minatomirai line)
Here you can try the taiyaki made with croissant dough.
Address: Aeon Nishi-Arai Store, 3 Chome-32-7 Umejima, Adachi, Tokyo
Access: Nishi-Arai station
For a modern variation:
Here, you can taste the traditional garnish, anko, or… pizza flavor!
Address: 3-9-15 Yanaka, Taito-ku, Tokyo
Access: Sendagi station (Chiyoda line), Nippori station