Made from a dense batter that’s a little bit chewy, taiyaki are Japan’s little fish-shaped cakes, a traditional sweet snack that fits somewhere between being a cake and a waffle. A typical Japanese dessert, taiyaki is made from a pancake-like batter that’s poured into a special cast iron mold. With a classic filling of azuki red bean paste, taiyaki falls under the category of wagashi (Japanese sweets), served warm from street food stalls and local specialty stores. Named after the Japanese red sea bream, called “tai,” for their shape, the lucky fish was historically expensive and saved for celebrations. Taiyaki evolved from its predecessor of the Edo Period’s imagawayaki (a similar recipe but made from a circular mold). Almost 100 years later, taiyaki grew in popularity to become a typical festival food.
Other popular fillings of this cute fish-shaped cake include custard, chocolate, or sweet potato. Sometimes specialty stores sell savory ones filled with cheese or pizza flavor; there’s even okonomiyaki-flavored taiyaki out there. Taiyaki made with croissant dough have also emerged in recent years, a buttery French twist on this classic Japanese dessert. Grab one at from a festival stall or a specialty shop throughout Japan, it’s best served hot off the grill while it’s still crisp! Discover this traditional Japanese dessert during a wagashi experience, or taste taiyaki during a sweet food tour for a freshly baked delight.