Japan is a land of vibrant culture, ancient traditions and mouth-watering cuisine – one of which being Taiyaki pan. This delectable fish-shaped treat has become as much an icon of Japanese culture as sushi or ramen. In this blog post we’ll take a closer look at Taiyaki pan’s origins as well as some of the best places to try it in Japan.
What Is Taiyaki Pan?
Taiyaki pan is a fish-shaped cake made with a sweet, crispy exterior and a soft, fluffy interior. The cake is traditionally filled with sweetened red bean paste, or anko, but can also be filled with chocolate, custard, cheese, or sweet potato. The word “Taiyaki” literally translates to “baked sea bream,” as the cake’s shape is modeled after the popular fish.
The History Of Taiyaki Pan
Taiyaki pan has a rich and colorful heritage that dates back to Japan’s Meiji period in the late 19th century. At this time, Japan was embarking on its modernization journey; street food vendors began appearing across cities selling an array of delectable snacks.
Taiyaki pan first emerged in Tokyo’s early 1900s and quickly gained popularity with local residents. Originally filled with simple ingredients such as sweetened adzuki beans or sesame paste, vendors began experimenting with various fillings over time – giving us today’s wide variety of flavors!
Taiyaki pan has quickly gained notoriety throughout Japan and is now commonly found at festivals, food stalls, and specialty shops nationwide.
Where To Find It
If you’re a fan of Taiyaki pan, there are many great places to try it in Japan. Here are a few recommendations to get you started:
- Naniwaya Sohonten: This Tokyo-based shop is widely considered to be the birthplace of Taiyaki pan. The shop has been in business for over 100 years and continues to serve some of the best Taiyaki in the city.
- Kurikoan: This Kyoto-based shop is known for its innovative Taiyaki flavors, such as green tea and white bean paste, as well as its traditional red bean paste.
- Tsukiji Yamachou: This seafood market-based shop in Tokyo serves a unique Taiyaki filled with fresh, grilled squid. It may not be traditional, but it’s a must-try for seafood lovers!
Making It At Home
If you can’t make it to Japan to try Taiyaki pan, don’t worry! Taiyaki pan is relatively easy to make at home with a Taiyaki pan, which can be found at many Asian markets or online.
Here’s a simple recipe for Taiyaki pan:
Scoop a spoonful of batter and pour it into the fish-shaped mold. At this time, the batter may not reach all the fine details of the mold, but that’s okay.
Use a chopstick to push the batter up to the tail and other details of the mold. (If the batter is too thin, dip the chopstick into the batter and use it to apply more batter).
It is recommended to check every minute when first starting out until you get the hang of it.) Initially, the front of the fish will be darker than the inside, so take out the front fish first and bake the inside one a bit longer.
The last small picture shows an example of a fish tail where the batter was not thick enough, resulting in only half of the tail being baked.
- fish-shaped mold
- Room temperature eggs
- Vegetable oil
- Fine granulated sugar
- Low-gluten flour
- Baking powder
- Cheese powder
- Red bean paste
- Mashed potatoes
- Black pepper
- Mix room temperature eggs, vegetable oil, and fine sugar thoroughly.
- Add milk and mix well. Sift in low-gluten flour, baking powder, cheese powder, and salt, and mix well. The batter should have a streamlined consistency when lifted, as shown in the picture.
- Cover with plastic wrap and let it rest for 10 minutes.
- Preheat the machine for 1 minute (this is for reference, other molds should be adjusted according to personal preferences). Scoop a spoonful of batter and pour it into the fish-shaped mold. At this time, the batter may not reach all the fine details of the mold, but that's okay. Use a chopstick to push the batter up to the tail and other details of the mold. (If the batter is too thin, dip the chopstick into the batter and use it to apply more batter).
- This step requires attention to detail, as the dish is not a sweet taiyaki and does not have red bean paste filling. Therefore, the batter should be thicker (including the tail) to make the fish plump.
- Cover the mold and bake for about 3 minutes. (This is the reference time for the first bake, and the time will be shorter for subsequent bakes. It is recommended to check every minute when first starting out until you get the hang of it.) Initially, the front of the fish will be darker than the inside, so take out the front fish first and bake the inside one a bit longer. The last small picture shows an example of a fish tail where the batter was not thick enough, resulting in only half of the tail being baked.
- All done, pick one and enjoy!
- Here's a demonstration of how to add filling. First, let's add mashed potatoes, which I think go very well with taiyaki, haha.
- Cut the fish open, but don't cut through the bottom, and make sure not to cut it in reverse. Pay close attention.
- There is a molded line on the side of the fish; cut along this line.
- Use a spatula to scoop up the mashed potatoes and stuff them into the cut.
- You can stuff a little more, and then gently squeeze the taiyaki. The mashed potatoes will pop out, making the taiyaki look more appetizing and adorable.
- Here's a bacon and egg sandwich version of the taiyaki. After cutting it open, spread a little sauce on both sides, then add fried bacon, egg, and crispy lettuce, and grind some black pepper on top.
- It's full! If using eggs, it's better to use free-range or quail eggs since they are smaller.
- Start with a good batter: The batter is the foundation of any taiyaki recipe. You want to make sure that the batter is the right consistency – not too thick or too thin. You can also add other ingredients to the batter, such as matcha powder or cocoa powder, to add some extra flavor.
- Use a non-stick taiyaki mold: To make the perfect taiyaki, it’s important to have a good mold. A non-stick taiyaki mold will ensure that the batter doesn’t stick and that the taiyaki comes out easily.
- Fill the taiyaki evenly: When filling the taiyaki with red bean paste or another filling, make sure that it is distributed evenly throughout the mold. You don’t want one side to be more filled than the other, as this can affect the texture and taste.
- Cook the taiyaki slowly: Taiyaki should be cooked slowly over low to medium heat to ensure that it is cooked through and has a crispy, golden-brown exterior. If the heat is too high, the taiyaki will cook too quickly on the outside but may be undercooked on the inside.
- Serve the taiyaki fresh: Taiyaki is best served fresh and warm. You can enjoy it plain or dust it with some powdered sugar or matcha powder for an extra touch of sweetness.