Product Branding History

Japanese Taiyaki Is Not What You Think It Is Cuz Murica (Then Again, You Could Be a Cultured Mofo)

Thanks Ari’gato for your feedback, the Goose for the idea, Copy-editor: Shaylin W.

The internet has taiyaki recipes from every wannabe recipe blogger to media outlets trying to cash in on the web traffic. Then, there is you, and your need to stuff your face with fish waffle cones, and I got’chu.

The first time I saw and had taiyaki was in Fukuoka, Japan, and I was like, “It’s not filled with fish, is it?” A dumb question, you say? Well, why the eff is it shaped like a fish? Then again, a chocolate bunny is not filled with rabbits, so touché.

This is the most comprehensive guide on authentic Japanese taiyaki, Korean bungeo-ppang, and Americanized fish waffle ice cream cones. Everything from where to buy/eat it (from Los Angeles to New York) and how to make it for home cooks to commercial grade makers.

I also break down authentic Japanese taiyaki versus the Americanized version marketed as being Japanese.
Photo Description:
Where it all started, 1909 in Japan at Naniwaya Sōhonten, Seijirō Kobe came up with the idea out of necessity.
Image by By 江戸村のとくぞう (Edomura no Tokuzo).

Where is Taiyaki From:

Japan and it is a variation of imagawayaki (a very popular Japanese dessert that goes by many regional names).

What is Japanese Taiyaki and the Culture and History

If you want to get the vibe of the culture surrounding  imagawayaki/taiyaki, I highly recommend the movie Sweet Bean (a 7.4 on IMDB), which I happened to see when it was streaming.

This is where you can stream Sweet Bean or if you want to watch it on Amazon.
Photo Description: the poster from the movie Sweet Bean by Naomi Kawase
I like this line in the movie (while in the kitchen cooking): Older lady “Keep up the good work.” Dude “hai(yes)”, Older lady: “I’m talking to the beans,” hahahaha

Traditional Japanese Confectionery/Desserts (Wagashi)

Almost all of these are primarily plant-based because Japan was a Vegan country for upwards of 1,200 years (it is part of the culture) versus the 1950s? in the US, a whopping 80 years.

We Americans always act as though we are the supreme health gurus of the world with gluten-free, vegan, and organic diets. Yet, the American version of taiyaki and mochi is not primarily plant-based and it is filled with ice cream and candy toppings (full of sugar).

The “health food” industry is not driven by health but the almighty dollar (it is part of the culture).
Photo Description:
Not a waffle cone. Image by Takanori Nakanowatari

Japanese desserts (and generally, Asian desserts) are not nearly as sweet as Western confectionery. So, desserts like taiyaki are savory and do not feel like diabetes in a bite.

Is taikyaki (tai=sea bream/yaki=baked) filled with fish? No, just like chocolate shaped bunnies are not filled with rabbit.

Taiyaki is shaped that way because tai (sea bream) is a symbol of luck and fortune in Japan.
DaifukuMochi (glutinous rice flour) stuffed with red bean (azuki) paste (anko), strawberry.
DangoRice, uruchi, and glutinous flour on a stick (🍡).
DorayakiPancake – like batter and Red bean (azuki) paste (anko).
ImagawayakiWaffle-like batter and red bean (azuki) paste (anko), curry, custard, to meat and vegetable fillings.
ManjuFlour, rice powder, buckwheat, and red bean (azuki) paste (anko).
MochiSweet rice/glutinous paste (I love it with roasted soy bean flour/kinako).
TaiyakiWaffle-like batter and red bean (azuki) paste (anko).
“Rice and beans” is the bulk of it, so where are my latinos at?

Koreans, Taiwanese, Japanese, and typically Asians in general, all share a love for the non-overly sweet dishes that are plant-based (taro pudding to halo-halo).

Red bean (azuki) is iconic to Japanese Wagashi, and my mom was producing shiroan made of lima beans for Brighton, Colorado’s Chow Mein dinner ( Coincidentally at the same time I was producing this blog post.

My mom took a pic and sent it to me, and I would have posted it, except she also took a picture of her finger.

Adzuki or Azuki?

Tangent alert: I just had to get into this because “aduki” is also listed as a spelling (WTF), and most people go with it, so I looked up the characters which are 小豆 (small beans/kun’yomi) and あずき(a-zu-ki). So where does aduki come from? I have no clue, but if you want to learn more, head on over to

Photo Description: real authentic Japaense taiyaki with red bean filling
Red bean (anko) filling or the guts of a fish head (not a waffle cone).

Japanese versus Americanized Taiyaki

There is Italian pizza, and then there is Italian-American pizza. The same goes for anything in the United States as it undergoes the Americanization process (Taco Bell to Panda Express).

There are two styles of “taiyaki”: 1. Japanese style with a red bean paste filling (anko), sweet potato, or custard (various flavors) are the most common fillings 2. the Asian-American version is filled with ice cream and Oreo® crumbs, strawberry, macaron, graham cracker, Fruity Pebbles®, rainbow sprinkle toppings.

The American version by Somi Somi and Taiyaki NYC are as Japanese as a banh mi (a sandwich/baguette) is a bowl (here is Chelsey’s bastardized version of Vietnamese culture).

I have had both, the Japanese version in Fukuoka, Japan and the Murican version in K-town/LA at Somi Somi. Both are fine for what they are, but not the marketing for the Americanized version.

Photo Description: the fish waffle cone by the Chinese dessert spot in New York City.
Murica, as Japanese as American sushi rolls are to Japanese sushi. This is a fish waffle (what I termed a fwaffle) cone with ice cream from Taiyaki NYC.

Like everything in the United States, the American version is nowhere near as healthy as the Japanese version. Like most American versions, it became sweeter, more Instagram-worthy, and tastier in an “I can’t get up, I need a fetching stick” way.

If you make your own taiyaki, this is what it will entail

Some of you go H.A.M (Hard As a Mutha butter) with your cooking and baking, so here are all your options for a home cook to commercial applications. Also, you will have to go to either three sites below for the full taiyaki/bungeo-ppang recipes.

The Basic Outer Ingredients (similar to waffle batter):

Cake flour, eggs, brown sugar, and butter are just a few of the ingredients.

The Filling (Anko: azuki beans):

Red bean and sugar

If you are ever looking for legit Japanese recipes, always checkout

This dude, Chef Iso, has the best design and UX because the content is not disjointed from the blog to having to click-away to watch a YouTube video, and it is all integrated into one clean page.

The 3rd legit recipe (stay away from the Food Network, they have no clue), is a vegan recipe by Lisa Kitahara/

Korean/Korean-American (Bungeo-ppang)

Bungeo (carp) is based upon taiyaki so it is filled with red bean, pastry-cream, chocolate, and pizza toppings.

Chinese Taiyaki Aluminum Pans (Made in China):

Cookking, Zoofox, Maopiner, Yaemart, Hovico, Natgai, Kuha, Eoocvt, Artilife (many of these products are the identical product, so these companies are more like importers and distributors).

$18-$39 for a Chinese made pan.

Japanese Taiyaki Cast-iron Pans (Made in Japan):

These brands have a long history such as Iwachu founded in 1902 and Oigen in 1852.

Photo Description: Iwachu cast iron mold with what looks like a steel and plastic handle.
$99, Iwachu Taiyaki Cast-iron Maker.
Photo Description: Origin Japanese cast iron mold which looks high-quality because it looks like it's all iron, even the handle
$149, Oigen Nambu Cast Iron Taiyaki Maker 

Commercial Grade Taiyaki Maker:

$300 to $500 – there are closed and open mouthed options (the open mouth is the Asian-American style for ice cream and other ingredients to be added).

The most common brand of commercial grade taiyaki makers on Amazon are by ALDKitchen (press release) which is an American company out of Miami. The founders are Dillon Mykalo and Vladi Mia who have been in business for over 10 years.

Photo Description: a picture of a commercial maker with a row of taiyaki molds (x6)
$190-$800, ALD Kitchen

Frozen Taiyaki Brands

Once you see your retail frozen food options, you will want to buy a taiyaki waffle-iron and and make your own anko, custard, or other fillings because these producers aren’t cutting it. The only potentially good one is the one sold to restaurants by Hacchan (I never had it).

Hacchan Taiyaki – 26.4 oz (10 Pieces)$18-$19
NY/NJ area
Frozen taiyaki, 14.10 oz (5 Pieces)
Japanese, a product of China
Wang Korea
Frozen taiyaki with red bean, 10ct, Frozen 900g
Korean, a product of China
If you plan on buying taiyaki online, keep in mind these products are frozen, so many online retailers will not ship the product.

Costco Taiyaki by Oulim Foods

If you want to know more details about Costco Taiyaki, I highly recommend reading Natalie’s write-up on her blog (she’s very thorough and does not slack).

Oulim Foods
Frozen “taiyaki”, sweet custard waffle treat
2″ in size (30 pieces)
Not marketed as bungeo-ppang and always under a Japanese pretense, yet Kpop, Squid Games, Psy, and a ton of Korean culture is mainstream.

Taiyaki Restaurants

The vast majority of these restaurants are not taiyaki although many will claim to be related to Japanese taiyaki (just like hot pot to Americanized sushi and ramen all marketed as Japanese).

In the United States, the Japanese and Japanese American spots are just aiiighhhhht (well, Gindaco and their croissant taiyaki are worth the try), but the places closest to Japanese taiyaki are definitely the Korean spots, not Korean-American.

There are so many good to great spots in South Korea, and I love the matcha slushies there, so it is not a surprise that Okrumong is a standout.
Photo Description: a pic of 3-4 taiyaki that look like golden brown sea bream shaped waffles atop a metal grate to keep them crispy. Directly below is a wooden tray.
The closest thing to bungeo-ppang in Los Angeles. Image courtesy of Okrumong (not a waffle cone).
Brothers Sushi
Chef Mark Okuda
21418 Ventura Blvd, Woodland Hills, CA 91364
Croissant taiyaki
3760 S. Centinela Ave., Mar Vista.1740 Artesia Blvd., Gardena.
Kissako Tea
(Facebook page)
Anne H. Matsuno
Japan Center Kinokuniya Building, San Francisco, CA
MuMu Bakery Cafe
Boong-uh bbang
3109 W Olympic Blvd D, Los Angeles, CA 
Original red bean, shaved snow
Torrance and Los Angeles
Somi Somi
Americanized “taiyaki”/Ah-boong. Founder Jigeon Matt Kim
33+ locations throughout California, Arizona, and Texas.
Sul & Beans
4284 Spring Mountain Rd Ste 103, Las Vegas, NV 89102
Taiyaki NYC
Americanized “taiyaki”
Three founders: Jimmy Chen, Tom Yang, and Ricky Yang 
3 locations in NY, 1 Massachusetts, 1 Florida, 1 Toronto, Canada
Uji Time
Americanized “taiyaki”
Sharon Ku
22 Peace Plaza #440 in Japantown, and 121 4th St in the Metreon in Yerba Buena. Also, Washington and New Mexico.
Many Asian-American businesses will use Japanese culture to market their businesses from hot pot (shabu shabu), Americanized sushi (as Japanese sushi) to mochi donuts (not the same as pon de ring by Mr. Donut).
Photo Description: a Japanese croissant taiyaki with a custard filling. You can see the little chunks of sugar coating with the gooey ooey custard and paper wrap that the person is holding it in.
A Japanese croissant taiyaki (not a waffle cone) with custard in Shinjuku at Ginnoan (go check out Image by the MangoCyborg

Somi Somi (and many others) try to redefine Japanese food culture to have it benefit them by touting taiyaki means “Baked fish-shaped waffle cone filled with your choice of filling!” That is a direct quote.

If you are Korean-American product, why not simply market your business as ah-boong (currently, the secondary messaging), and why the reliance on Japanese culture? I have been to South Korea twice and Korean cuisine deserves the respect of standing on its own.

Whenever wypipo (a million instances, Tyler Akin/Bon AppetitLucky Lee being two examplesor a chef (Stephanie Izard) does anything that deviates on ethnic cuisine, they are called out for it. Although when it comes to the use of Japanese food culture (sushi, ramen, doughnuts, yakiniku, to shabu shabu) by Asians/non-Japanese to benefit their bottom line, it is fair game or labeled fusion or a creative take. So, the solution, quit using Japanese culture to market Japanese inspired foods while avoiding a Chinese or Korean association (speaking as a Japanese-American because ethnically homogeneous Japan is oblivious).

Japanese taiyaki should not be a marketing ploy for dudes/dudettes to sell fish shaped waffle cones. What it is, is a marketing ploy for Japanese dudes trying to sell imagawayaki. Respect the origins of the ploy bruh.

sharing is caring graphic
Share culture, not taiyaki marketing ploys

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