Taiyaki is one of the most popular Japanese street snacks and you can see it almost everywhere in Japan, especially in Tokyo. Taiyaki cake is a fish-shaped waffle-like Japanese fish pancake with red bean filling. The red bean paste completes the entire experience. It is famous at street fairs and festivals in Japan. Even if the common filling is red bean filling. However, other common fillings may be custard, chocolate, cheese, or even sweet potato. Some shops even sell taiyaki with okonomiyaki, gyoza filling, or a sausage inside. Taiyaki are similar to other dessrt imagawayaki. It is a thick round cake filled with sweet azuki bean paste or custard.
Why is taiyaki cake shaped like a fish?
It is the quintessential Japanese street food and a very popular dessert at festivals. If you’re trying to imagine it in your head, think of it as a fish-shaped cake with a scrumptious filling, the perfect street food to have when you need a bit of sugar in your life. The tai of taiyaki means the red sea bream fish which take its shape from. Yaki means baked or grilled. Therefore, Taiyaki is a baked waffle in red sea bream fish shape, with a red bean paste as a filling. But, don´t worry even if it´s a fish-shaped cake it doesn´t even taste like a fish. The taste depends on the fillings inside.
During the era, fish was a very expensive fish and was eaten only for special celebrations. So, the significance of that era resulted in the shape of this dessert. Moreover, Taiyaki literally translates to fried fish!
What is the history of taiyaki?
Taiyaki was first sold in Japan in 1909. It is essentially a reshaped form of “Imagawayaki”, a popular snack made by wrapping bean paste in flour. During that time, Seijiro Kobe was having trouble selling his imagawayaki, so he decided to bake the cakes into fish shapes. He was the founder of the store Naniwaya Sohonten. Tai is a symbol of luck and fortune in Japan. Additionally, it was an expensive fish only affordable by the higher classes or on special occasions. The fourth owner of the store stated that Seijiro wanted to give the ordinary people a taste of the expensive fish-shaped cake at low prices.
Since its creation, it has evolved into many variations, with different ingredients for filling and batter, as well as variations in shapes and sizes.
What are the various types of taiyaki?
In addition to red bean paste, there are also shops that have custard cream and chocolate cream as fillings. There is also a version of Taiyaki cake that has a taste of Western confectionery, such as cheese cream and caramel cream based on cream cheese. In this way, it can be used not only as Japanese sweets but also as Western sweets, and the ingredients inside are rich in variety.
Additionally, Taiyaki ingredients are not limited to sweets. There is also a meal-type that can be eaten like rice balls and sandwiches. There are various ingredients such as tuna, egg, cheese, ham sandwiched, white sauce and curry, cabbage, and pork sandwich okonomiyaki. Even those who are not into sweets are familiar with these types of Taiyaki. In fact, it is a meal-type that can be made with cooking utensils that are common in the home.
Moreover, there are seasonal flavors such as cherry blossom bean paste in spring and sweet potato bean paste in autumn. In addition, Taiyaki has a variety of flavors such as refreshing blue ramune-flavored bean paste and potato salad stuffed with it. If you order it and stock it in the freezer, you can enjoy various flavors. Also, there are also other newest types such as white taiyaki.
How to make taiyaki cake
- 170 grams butter
- 65 grams light brown sugar
- 100 grams egg
- 240 grams cake flour
- 6 grams baking powder
- 155 grams warm milk
- 10 grams honey
- 6 grams light soy sauce
- 4 grams vanilla extract
RED BEAN PASTE (OPTIONAL):
- 150 grams
- 250 grams
- 500 grams
Equipment: Taiyaki pan, Squeeze bottle, mixer(optional), sieve(optional)
Methods for preparing the bean paste (optional):
Pressure cook the adzuki beans with the water for 1 hour.
Mix the beans in a food processor until you achieve a fine, sandy texture.
Return the beans to a saucepan and add just enough water until the bean paste barely starts to clump together.
Cook the beans with the sugar, stirring until the paste comes together and the sugar fully dissolves into the paste, about 3 minutes.
Pass the beans through a sieve to remove any chunks for a finer paste.
Shape the paste into inserts that will fit inside the fish-shaped taiyaki.
Methods for preparing the Taiyaki:
Mix together the milk, honey, soy sauce, and vanilla extract and set aside.
Cream the butter together with the sugar.
Beat in one egg, then the other.
Beat in half the flour, then the milk, then the other half of the flour.
The taiyaki batter should form a fluid—but not liquid—batter. It should be about the consistency of soft-serve ice cream. Set your burner to between low and medium-low and begin to heat your taiyaki pan.
Use a squeeze bottle to squeeze a pool of batter into the body, then the tail, and around the body again.
Place the red bean insert into the center of the taiyaki and press it halfway.
Pour more taiyaki batter over the red bean insert so that it’s fully covered.
Check the doneness of each side and if not done, continue grilling at 45-second intervals.
The taiyaki are done when they are evenly golden brown. Remove with a pair of chopsticks.
Serve while still warm and crunchy on the outside. Oishi!
Popularity of taiyaki cake
Taiyaki is indeed a memorable Japanese sweet snack by many. For anyone with an interest in Japanese food and culture, it is a good experience. To better understand why this fish became so popular, it’s important to understand that tai has strong cultural significance to the Japanese people. Moreover, it’s traditional to serve tai on the 100th day after a baby’s birth, during New Year’s celebrations, and festivals in which the fishing community’s inhabitants carry a giant tai float into the sea.
This kind of street snack is also popular with tourists. Every person has their own way of eating and somehow reveals an aspect of each person’s personality. If you eat it starting with the head, it is said that the person is optimistic. If you start eating from the bottom part of the tail, they are idealistic. And those people who start eating from the sides are energetic. Eating Taiyaki gives a lot of memories to many people. It is easy to spot Taiyaki everywhere in Japan as it is popular street food and loved by many. So, If you happen to visit a Japanese stall someday, don’t forget to try Taiyaki!
The above taiyaki recipe was taken from Chef Iso who is a Japanese-American pastry chef creating elegant desserts that blend Japanese artistry with French culinary tradition. If you want to read the article, click here.
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