Walking through an Asian grocery store, you’ll spot little fish-shaped sweet treats in the snack aisle with varying colors and flavors. The exterior offers a delicious crunch, while the inside provides a sweet thick cream creating the perfect combination of crunchy and creamy. These delicious treats are also known as taiyaki.
What Is Taiyaki?
Taiyaki is a snack sold in the shape of red sea bream fish, also known as tai. These fish are often eaten in celebration of large events. The standard taiyaki filling is red bean paste, though many variations now range from traditional flavors to newer ones like strawberry and chocolate.
This sweet snack is related to imagawayaki, another sweet treat with the same ingredients but a circular shape. The creator of taiyaki initially owned an imagawayaki store. Unfortunately, his original store was not successful. This man, Seijiro Kanbei, created imagawayaki in the shape of tai fish and business took off. These fish-shaped snacks originated in Tokyo, Japan, and continue to be sold to people worldwide.
These popular Japanese snacks are so beloved that Kanbei’s store is still open and selling this delicious treat. As the years have progressed, savory flavors are also available. You may luck out and find a pizza-flavored taiyaki or maybe even one filled with corn or cheese.
What Do These Japanese Snacks Taste Like?
This Japanese street food has varying tastes depending on if you purchase a sweet or savory option. The sweet options range from chocolatey to a sweet matcha taste. You can find many options, including an array of fruit and vegetable fillings. The exterior of these Japanese cakes has a flavor between pancakes and ice cream cones with a crunchy exterior and soft interior.
For the savory cakes, expect a slightly sweet taste in combination with the flavors of the fillings. As mentioned above, savory fillings range from pizza to cheese, corn, or even sausage. The taste for these Japanese snacks varies much more than the sweet variety.
Why Is Taiyaki a Fish?
There is no clear answer on why Seijiro Kanbei made these Japanese sweets in the shape of a fish. However, perhaps he was hoping for some good luck with his shop, as the tai fish symbolizes. Whatever the reason, the cute fish shape helped increase the popularity of this famous Japanese snack.
How Are These Traditional Japanese Sweets Made?
These delightful fish-shaped snacks, aka some of the best Japanese snacks, are made from a thin batter (similar to waffle batter). This batter serves as the exterior shell to a soft filling. Then, the batter is poured into a taiyaki-ki, a hollow metal iron with two plates on each side. These plates have the impression of tai fish (similar to a waffle maker). Once the batter is poured, the filling is added, and the device is shut. Then, these traditional treats are put over an open flame to cook through and provide the crispy crust that taiyaki offers.
There are some street vendors that deep fry taiyaki as well. This cooking method creates a softer texture on the inside, and a crunchier outside for the ultimate Tokyo treat.
Where Can You Get Taiyaki?
For those living outside of Japan, or those who don't want to leave the comfort of their home, you can try Meito Sangyo Puku Puku Tai: Strawberry (10 Pieces)
and Meito Sangyo Puku Puku Tai: Chocolate (10 Pieces) as two favorite flavor options.
Once you taste these Japanese treats, you'll be on the hunt for as many flavors as you can find!
If you're on the hunt for additional sweets, head to Bokksu Market. Here, you'll find Japanese snack box options which contain Japanese candy and savory snacks. You can choose a Japanese snack subscription box for a combination of new treats and beloved favorite Japanese candy box sweets to satisfy cravings. Japanese snack subscription boxes can come as a monthly box subscription; this includes Japan candy box treats and savory delicacies. Try your first box and see what you think!
By Krystina Quintana