Taiyaki, Japanese Waffles   鯛焼き

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Taiyaki, a popular snack at festivals

Taiyaki, a popular snack at festivals

Taiyaki cooking in their fish-shaped moods

Taiyaki cooking in their fish-shaped moods

Taiyaki cooking

Taiyaki cooking

Taiyaki

Taiyaki

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. 

rabbit taiyaki

rabbit taiyaki

Taiyaki

Taiyaki

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

Taiyaki in their molds

Sakura taiyaki

Sakura taiyaki

Taiyaki with ice cream

Taiyaki with ice cream

Traditionally, taiyaki are filled with ankoazuki 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. 

Taiyaki stand

Taiyaki stand

How do you eat your taiyaki? It can reveal your personality!

How do you eat your taiyaki? It can reveal your personality!

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:

  • Naniwaya

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

  • Tainoya

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


For foodies:

  • 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)

  • Gin-no-an

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:

  • Manekiya

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


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