Taiyaki is Japan’s lucky treat
Anyone travelling to Japan for the 2020 Olympics would regret not trying the traditional cuisine. Over the next few months, we will look at traditional Japanese meals and delicacies so you can enjoy these recipes from the comfort of your own home! Let’s start with dessert, the traditional Japanese delicacy, Taiyaki.
What is Taiyaki?
Though it resembles the shape of the Japanese red sea bream, or Tai fish, taiyaki is anything but fishy. The traditional Japanese dessert takes the form of the “Tai” fish using batter and a special, fish shaped, cooking iron to make the crispy, pancake like, outside of the treat.
According to Taiyaki NYC, the dessert originated in Japan possibly as early as the 1600’s, Taiyaki acquired its famous shape through experimentation in 1909. A sweets shop, failing to sell their cakes, began trying to come up with a more appealing look for the dessert. After trying different ideas, the shop settled on the shape of the tai fish which is seen as a lucky charm, as well as a luxury food in Japanese culture as pointed out by Kumi from “Sweets of Japan”.
It’s important to remember, if you want to make taiyaki at home you’ll need a special fish-shaped taiyaki pan to get the shape of the cakes right.
The filling that you choose for the cakes is what makes each taiyaki recipe distinct. Traditionally, and most commonly, taiyaki filling is a red-bean paste known as anko, as seen in this recipe by Mamololi. The earthy, sweet paste combines with the crispiness of the cakes to create a rich flavour. Taiyaki can also be filled with chocolate or custard for different ways to satisfy a sweet tooth!
While most recipes call for the use of all-purpose flour you can use cake flour when making the taiyaki cakes for a lighter and crispier texture. Just ensure you keep the heat low so as not to burn the cakes themselves.
You can always use chocolate or custard in your taiyaki, but if your aiming for a more traditional flavour then anko is the way to go!
Anko: Red Bean Paste
To make the traditional red bean paste and truly capture the flavour of taiyaki, you’ll only need a few ingredients as laid out in this recipe by japanesecooking101.
1 cup red beans
1 1/2 cups sugar
4-5 cups water
Place beans into a pot with the 4 – 5 cups of water and boil for 5 mins. Dump the water and place the beans in a new pot with 4 – 5 new cups of water. Simmer the beans for 1 1/2 to 2 hours until the beans are very soft. Dump the water once more and return the beans to the pot with the sugar at medium to high heat, stirring constantly for 10 minutes until the beans and sugar form a paste. Put paste into a container where it can be easily scooped and spread on the taiyaki.