The fishy snack that’s not a fish!
Please be aware that no real fish were harmed in the writing of this blog! (lol)
If you’re an anime fan like myself, you’re sure to have seen these fish-shaped delicacies called taiyaki being sold by street vendors. What is taiyaki? This crispy treat is a small cake filled with sweet azuki bean paste and cooked in a fish-shaped mold. It’s common to find taiyaki at a matsuri (festival) but you can also take a casual trip to the supermarket to find a frozen version of this snack. What a convenient treat!
Now don’t let the availability worry you, you don’t have to be in Japan to try it. Taiyaki has risen in popularity around the world and with just some effort, you can find some near you! Let’s take a closer look at this faux fishy snack.
Origin of Taiyaki
I’m sure you may have been wondering why it is fish-shaped? You weren’t? Well I’m still going to tell you anyway! To answer this question, we have to first take a trip back through time to the Meiji era (1868 – 1912).
In this period, imagawayaki – a circular shaped version of taiyaki was present at the time. On the other hand, we had sea bream (called tai in Japanese), which was not only very costly and only eaten on special occasions and was also viewed as a symbol of good luck.
It’s unclear which imagawayaki stall started the trend however, taiyaki soon became part of the norm and the new snack also sold a lot better than its predecessor. One reason for this may be the play on words as taiyaki is similar to medatai which translates to “happy”. One more reason may be to allow people to celebrate with a more cost-effective baked sea bream, in other words, taiyaki.
How is Taiyaki made?
Moving on from our history lesson (which I hope you enjoyed), let’s talk a little about making taiyaki. Made from a batter similar to that used for waffles and pancakes, it’s just a tad bit on the thinner side. We do need the batter to properly fill and conform to the fish-shaped mold afterall to get a detailed visualization of the scales, tail and fins!
The Taiyaki is filled traditionally with sweet azuki bean paste. Once the deliciousness is sealed the taiyaki is baked until golden brown. To ensure the Taiyaki holds its filling and shape, it is usually crispy on the edges and transitions to a denser and chewier center.
Crazy Taiyaki Creations!
Detouring from the traditional taiyaki, it is common to find the sweet azuki bean paste being substituted by a few other tasty fillings. If you have a sweet tooth, why not try out the chocolate or custard filled taiyaki? There is also a sweet potato filled taiyaki! Not a fan of the sweets? Not to worry! There are several savory taiyaki as well such as cheese and gyoza.
Another spin on taiyaki that has become popular worldwide is taiyaki ice cream. Don’t worry, it is not actually made into ice cream. Actually, it’s used instead as the cone for the ice cream with a hidden treat in the tail – usually custard or sweet azuki bean paste! Definitely a perfect treat on a hot summer’s day! And of course taiyaki can be made into a delectable treat for vegans to snack on as well!
Now that we’ve learnt more about Taiyaki, is anyone else as excited as I am to try it? And if you’ve had it before, don’t hesitate to tell us about it and any hotspot recommendations you have in Japan!