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.
Where is Taiyaki From:
Japan and it is a variation of imagawayaki (a very popular Japanese dessert that goes by many regional names).
Real 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.
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 filled with ice cream and candy toppings (sugar).The “health food” industry is not driven by health but the almighty dollar (it is part of the culture).
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.
|Daifuku||Mochi (glutinous rice flour) stuffed with red bean (azuki) paste (anko), strawberry.|
|Dango||Rice, uruchi, and glutinous flour on a stick (🍡).|
|Dorayaki||Pancake – like batter and Red bean (azuki) paste (anko).|
|Imagawayaki||Waffle-like batter and red bean (azuki) paste (anko), curry, custard, to meat and vegetable fillings.|
|Manju||Flour, rice powder, buckwheat, and red bean (azuki) paste (anko).|
|Mochi||Sweet rice/glutinous paste (I love it with roasted soy bean flour/kinako).|
|Taiyaki||Waffle-like batter and red bean (azuki) paste (anko).|
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 (northglenn-thorntonsentinel.com). 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 NihongoMaster.com
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.
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 JustOneCookbook.com
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/okonomikitchen.com.
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.
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.
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|
|Frozen taiyaki, 14.10 oz (5 Pieces)|
Japanese, a product of China
|Frozen taiyaki with red bean, 10ct, Frozen 900g|
Korean, a product of China
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 CostcoCuisine.com (she’s very thorough and does not slack).
|Frozen “taiyaki”, sweet custard waffle treat|
2″ in size (30 pieces)
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.
Chef Mark Okuda
|21418 Ventura Blvd, Woodland Hills, CA 91364|
|3760 S. Centinela Ave., Mar Vista.1740 Artesia Blvd., Gardena.|
Anne H. Matsuno
|Japan Center Kinokuniya Building, San Francisco, CA|
|MuMu Bakery Cafe|
|3109 W Olympic Blvd D, Los Angeles, CA|
Original red bean, shaved snow
|Torrance and Los Angeles|
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|
Three founders: Jimmy Chen, Tom Yang, and Ricky Yang
|3 locations in NY, 1 Massachusetts, 1 Florida, 1 Toronto, Canada|
|22 Peace Plaza #440 in Japantown, and 121 4th St in the Metreon in Yerba Buena. Also, Washington and New Mexico.|
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 Appetit, Lucky Lee being two examples) or 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.