Taiyaki (Japanese fish-shaped pancake with sweet red bean or custard filling)

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Taiyaki: Japanese Fish-Shaped Pancakes with Custard or Sweetened Red Bean Filling

When I was 16 years old, my family took a trip to Walt Disney World in Florida.  This was a first for us… most of our family vacations revolved around Lake Arrowhead in the San Bernardino Mountains (about a 2 hour drive from our house in L.A.) – pretty much the farthest we had ever gone for a family trip.  But we got lucky one day… my mother won an all expense paid trip to Walt Disney World from KIIS FM (102.7) by answering the phone, “I love KIIS FM!!!” or something like that… so off we went!  That trip was so much fun!  All our food was 100% comped, we had admission to all of the parks, and coupons/vouchers for all kinds of activities.

Here we are at Disney World with Prince John (the evil lion from Disney's Robin Hood)... he's just as greedy as that gluttonous seagull!

The most memorable incident from that trip involved me, my brother, a canoe, a wrong turn, and an alligator.  (But for now, I will leave that story alone.)  The second most memorable incident from that trip involved being dive-bombed by some brazen seagulls in the “Japan” area of Epcot Center.  Walking through Epcot’s “Japan”… there was a street vendor selling fresh hot Taiyaki with red bean filling.  (Taiyaki are kind of a cross between a pancake and a waffle – the batter is cooked in a fish shaped mold – typically filled with sweetened red bean paste.)  OMG I wanted one so badly.  So… my mother bought me one.  I took one bite… then all of a sudden… there was a rush of air, flutter of wings, and my hand was empty!  A seagull STOLE the Taiyaki right out of my hand!!!!  Feeling sorry for me, my mother bought me another one.  One more bite… and ANOTHER GREEDY SEAGULL stole my second Taiyaki!!!!   This time, I held on, and the seagull managed to only steal half of my Taiyaki.  What lesson did I learn from that?  1.  Seagulls are jerks.  And 2. Taiyaki are delicious when hot and fresh – apparently nobody can resist them.

To make your own Taiyaki at home, the only special thing you need is a Taiyaki mold/pan.  I got my non-stick Taiyaki Pan online for about $40.  You can probably find the Taiyaki Pan cheaper in Asia, or you might find one at a Japanese houseware store… or possibly ebay.  They do sell electric Taiyaki machines… but I think the double-sided molded pan (for stove use) is best – it’s easier to use, and easier to clean.  If you can’t find a molded Taiyaki pan, don’t despair… you can make Dorayaki instead:  Instead of making molded filled pancakes, just use the batter to make 1.5″ to 2″ round pancakes in a regular skillet – then sandwich the filling in between two pancakes.  Or make a larger 4″ pancake, place the filling over one half, then fold over to make a half moon shape.

Taiyaki batter:

You can buy a Japanese Taiyaki Mold online, or in a Japanese kitchenware store.

  • 2 c. flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 T. sugar
  • 1 1/3 c. milk
  • 1/4 c. oil
  • 1 egg

Custard Filling:

  • 3/4 c. + 2 T. milk
  • 2 T. unsalted butter
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/4 c. sugar
  • 2 1/2 T. flour
  • 1 T. cornstarch
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

Alternate Fillings:

  • sweetened red bean paste
  • nutella
  • jam
  • mashed sweet potato
  • cheese
  • cream cheese + sugar
  • chocolate chips + peanut butter

1.  If you are making the custard filling, do this at least 1 hour before making your Taiyaki.  Microwave the milk and butter in a pyrex cup for about 90 seconds.  (You want to scald the milk and melt the butter.)

2.  Mix the egg yolk, sugar, flour, cornstarch, and salt into a paste.

3.  Add a small amount of the hot milk mixture to the paste, stirring to loosen it  up.

4.  Continue adding the hot milk mixture (a little bit at a time) to the paste mixture, stirring as you go until you have a smooth liquid.

5.  Put the mixture into a small sauce pan and add the vanilla.

6.  Cook over medium low heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens.  When swirl lines appear, remove from the heat and continue to whisk another 30 seconds.

7.  Remove the cooked custard to a small bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until ready to use.

8.  To make the Taiyaki batter, mix the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar in a bowl (preferably one with a spout, so that the batter will be easier to pour later).

9.  Add the milk, oil, and egg, and mix until combined.

10.  Preheat your Taiyaki mold over medium-low heat, and brush both surfaces (the top and bottom of the mold) with a little bit of cooking oil.

11.  Place the bottom of the mold over the burner set to medium-low.  Fill the bottom mold about 2/3 full with the batter.

12.  Add a small scoop of your filling.  (In the picture below, I’m using sweetened red bean paste because it shows up better in the pictures.)  You can use pretty much any filling you like:  custard, sweetened red bean paste, sweetened mashed sweet potato or taro, jam, nutella, chocolate chips + peanut butter… anything you want.  Just don’t overfill – use only about 1 T. of filling.

13.  Cover the filling with a little bit more batter.  (You can use the back of a spoon to smooth the batter to completely cover the filling.)  Close the lid down (squeezing the handle tightly), and flip over so that the top mold is now being heated by the stove.

14.  Continue to cook over medium-low, flipping every 30 seconds.

15. After about a minute or two, lift up the lid slightly and check to see the color of the Taiyaki.  If too pale, continue cooking until golden brown.  (If you overfill the mold, batter will flow out, making it more likely that the mold will stick together, or that the Taiyaki will stick to one side of the mold.  If that happens, use a plastic fork or bamboo skewer to gently pry away some of the cooked batter.  Try not to overfill next time – it will make it easier to remove.)  In this photo you can see the Taiyaki is still undercooked.  I lifted the mold up a little higher than normal in order to take the picture – in reality, you will only want to lift up the lid an inch or so – just to quickly check the color.  You will want the Taiyaki to be golden brown.

16.  Remove the Taiyaki to a plate.   Use kitchen shears to cut the excess cooked batter off the Taiyaki to “clean up” the edges.

17.  Serve hot.  (One batch of batter will make about 12 Taiyaki.)

 

Comments

  1. Amy says:

    Hi Mika,
    How big is your Taiyaki? It look rather big in the picture. How long can you leave it out? It look so cool. I’m contemplating as whether I should invest in a Taiyaki pan in order to make these. Have you ever tried to make the HongKong egg waffle?

    • Mika Mika says:

      Hi Amy! The Taiyaki are regular sized, about 3-4 inches long. How long you can leave them out depend on the filling that you use. If you use custard, then you do need to refrigerate them if you do not eat them right away (warm up in a toaster oven or microwave before serving). If you use red bean filling, or something that is able to stay room temperature (like chocolate chips, nutella, or something like that) then you can leave them out for a day or so.

      No, I’ve never tried to make a Hong Kong egg waffle… but the funny thing is the pan used to make those looks a lot like a Japanese Takoyaki pan (to make octopus pancake balls) – except the Takoyaki pan is one-sided. It’s on my to-do list though, so one of these days… I have to find the mold/pan first!

  2. Amy says:

    I saw the mold sold on Williams-Sonoma website. A bit expensive though 49.99.

  3. Jay says:

    Hi. I bought a microwavable taiyaki mold but it didn’t come with english instructions. It came with a 500ml container for the batter. Would the ingredients be the same for a microwavable batter? How much should I use, and what should I use? I can’t find any instructions to make the batter, unless it’s all the same thing.

    • Mika Mika says:

      I’ve never used a microwave mold before, but I searched Amazon, and found this:
      Microwave Taiyaki Maker
      These are the instructions listed on Amazon:
      To cook add 1 egg and 1/2 cup milk to a bowl and mix. Add 1 1/3 cups pancake mix powder and mix again. Using a paper towel soaked in vegetable oil, grease the inside of the pan. Put 1 tablespoon of the mixture into each of the 2 holes in the pan. Microwave the pan for 30 seconds on high. Add 1/2 teaspoon of red bean paste (or cheese or chocolate if you prefer) on top of the cake mixture in each hole of the pan. Put 1 tablespoon of the cake mixture on top of each of the red bean paste. Microwave pan for 40 seconds on high. Remove pan and press pan lid down onto the cakes, Allow to cool for 5 minutes and remove from pan.

      There are also other instructions that I found online that are a little different:
      http://www.japantrendshop.com/oyako-microwave-taiyaki-maker-from-takara-tomy-p-521.html
      and
      http://www.jbox.com/product/HRI411

  4. Kate says:

    Hi mika! :) I was wondering… what kind of flour did you use in making taiyaki? :)

  5. kat says:

    I left my taiyaki (red bean filling) outside for about two hours, AND THE WAFFLE THINGY GOT COLD >:-( please please, do you know how to keep it nice n warm?

    • Mika Mika says:

      Do you mean your final taiyaki got cold? If you need to reheat, putting directly on the rack of the oven or toaster oven at about 250 degrees for 5-10 minutes can heat them up again without making the outside soggy.

  6. fany says:

    I really like the recipe Taiyaki, kids can eat more than one
    may I ask whether there are differences in texture when vegetable oil is replaced with butter?

    thanks
    regards,

    fany

    • Mika Mika says:

      I’m not sure… I’ve never made the batter with butter. When making taiyaki (or basically pancake) batter… it’s easier to use liquid ingredients, like oil. If you want to try making the batter with butter instead, I would use melted butter so that it mixes better with the other ingredients. Let me know how it turns out if you decide to experiment!

  7. fany says:

    I’ve been using butter..
    The difference is more tender and fragrant. ☺
    Thanks mika..

  8. Susan says:

    Hi there, may you share the recipe how to make the red bean paste? thanks before :)

    • Mika Mika says:

      I usually buy sweetened red bean paste in a can from the Japanese, Chinese, or Korean market. Lately, the markets have been also selling the paste in these little (soft) plastic packs too.

      If you want to make your own, boil soaked red azuki beans until soft, then mash and add sugar and water until the texture and sweetness is to your liking. If you want it really smooth, then use the food processor to puree it.

  9. Jason says:

    Is it possible to make these without a mold?

    • Mika Mika says:

      Yes, you can probably make them like dorayaki… make little pancakes instead, then make a little sandwich with the filling once the pancakes are done.

  10. Hans says:

    Hello. Do you get the same nice shape in both sides? I get only one side beauty and the other side one I get it flat and ungly. How I can fix that?

    • Mika Mika says:

      If only the first side looks molded properly, you may not be filling them molds with enough batter/filling. Try using more batter so that it rises up and fills the entire mold.

  11. RLee says:

    I made these today in my electric taiyaki maker they came out great. My only concern was the batter seemed alittle thick and the electric mold seems shallower than the one you are using. I may try using a squeeze bottle to fill the molds as I seen on a video. Thank you very much.

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