Japan has lots of wonderful sweet treats that you can find in markets and shops. Glutinous mochi with red bean paste, leaf-shaped momiji manjū, humble dorayaki. But there’s one which is my particular favourite – the fish-shaped taiyaki.
Taiyaki translates to ‘baked (yaki) sea bream (tai)’, hence the way it is traditionally served in the shape of a fish. They usually have a funny not-impressed expression on their faces. The outer crust has a nice soft crunch to it, while the inside is best served still hot.
Inside, taiyaki are filled with a choice of fillings. The most common taiyaki are filled with red bean paste, although chocolate, custard, sweet potato or cheese are also popular alternatives.
How taiyaki are made
Taiyaki are made similar to momiji manjū, a treat from the island of Miyajima. A batter of egg, milk and flour (sometimes with baking powder and sugar) is poured into the fish-shaped mold. Then, the filling is squeezed into the batter as it begins to cook, usually as a strip of a thick paste.
Next, the mold is folded over and clamped shut, so the fish can seal shut. It can also be made in a single-sided mold, and flipped halfway through cooking.
After a short time, the mold is opened, and voila! The taiyaki is ready to enjoy, a portable snack when exploring cities and towns all over Japan. Just like Hong Kong’s famous egg waffles, taiyaki are found everywhere that pedestrians tend to walk, such as markets and shopping streets.
Ice cream style taiyaki
An alternative style of taiyaki is the taiyaki ice cream cone. The fish mold is still the same crispy cooked batter, but made with a wide, gaping mouth, and a hollow interior without fillings. Next, a big blob of ice cream is put into its mouth, ready to enjoy (even if the poor fish looks like it’s being choked by ice cream)!
Taiyaki is one of my favourite treats in all of Japan, a sweet, crispy, warm and tasty snack that’s perfect to eat on the move. What’s your favourite filling for taiyaki? Are there any treats that can knock the taiyaki off its throne? Let me know in the comments below!