[food]* Stuffed with red beans or custard cream in a waffle-like shell, this 101 year old fish-shaped snack is loved by young and old alike.
Taiyaki is a fish-shaped, waffle-like snack with a sweet inner centre. Although traditionally made with red bean, other fillings such as custard cream and chocolate have now also become mainstream. The outer layer also varies, from the traditional thin, crisp version to thicker, sweeter and more cake-like varieties. Recently "white" taiyaki, made with a mochi covering, has seen a surge in popularity within Japan.
Prices are largely consistent at around ¥120 (£0.90 / $1.40) each.
Taiyaki derives from dorayaki, a pancake-like, red bean-filled sandwich-like snack originating from the Edo period. Around ~1800 a method of "sealing in" the filling by using a two-sided iron (similar to a traditional waffle iron) was conceived, and the resulting imagawayaki became popular across Japan.
In an attempt to make the plain, round imagawayaki tastier and more appealing to children, the Tokyo-based shop Naniwaya Sohoten began, in 1909, to instead make imagawayaki in a fish-shape, with a thinner, crisper outer layer - the taiyaki we see today.
Perhaps somewhat unusually, the popularity of taiyaki today can be accredited in part to a significant boost it received in 1975, with the release of children's hit single "Swim! Mr. Taiyaki".
Speciality shops sell taiyaki all across Japan, and though worth trying in any location I will take the exceptional step of specifically recommending Naniwaya Sohoten, the store said to have first invented taiyaki in 1909 and which still does it wonderfully.
Azabu Juban 2-3-12
Getting there: 2 min. walk from Azabu-juban station (Tokyo Metro Oedo Line)
Cute, fun to eat, and quite definitively Japanese. Plus, it's stayed in its original form (by the same people, at the same location) for over 100 years! That has to be quite something. Besides... it's really, really good. ♥♥♥♥
Tried taiyaki, or any of its variants? What's your favourite place for them? Any other Japanese snacks you would recommend? Send in an e-mail or comment below!