ほかほか (hoka hoka): steaming hot food
“So, taiyaki is shaped like the tai, which is considered to be—well, you know how this sentence is going to end. The way all my explanations end.”
“’Good luck’?” my mother asks.
“And also the other way all my explanations end: filled with bean paste.”
There’s nothing like biting into a fresh taiyaki (たい焼き、鯛焼き) just off the griddle. Don’t be fooled by its shape—the tai, or sea bream, is a fish that symbolizes celebration in Japan, but the taiyaki is a fish only in shape. The outside is a sweet pancake-like batter, which is painted onto a fish-shaped griddle, and the inside is traditionally filled with anko (あんこ), sweet red-bean paste; the two are cooked together in a machine similar to a waffle maker.
I used to buy frozen taiyaki at Hiller’s in Ann Arbor all the time and microwave them; when I moved to Japan, I would grill fresh or frozen taiyaki from the store in my fish grill. However, the frozen can’t compare to the fresh, and I’ve “quit” grocery-store taiyaki in favor of hunting down fresh taiyaki with unusual or local fillings. Here are some of the highlights of my taiyaki obsession:
1. Matcha-Custard Taiyaki
Kitano Tenmanguu flea market, Kyoto; 25 March 2010
At the Kitano Tenmanguu flea market, which is held monthly on the 25th, there is no shortage of taiyaki sellers. Most of them have tsubuan, custard, and chocolate taiyaki, but only one had matcha-custard. Matcha is very suited for milky sweets, and the matcha custard was lovely. Sadly, I do not have a picture of this or the location of the seller, but if you get the chance to try matcha custard instead of the standard matcha-anko, go for it!
北野天満宮 Kitano Tenmanguu
Kyoto-fu, Kyoto-shi, Kamigyou-ku, Bakurochou
Flea market is on the 25th of every month, 7:00-21:00.
2. Black-Sesame-and-Anko Taiyaki
Namihei, Kamakura, 28 Dec. 2010
Walking from the Daibutsu Hiking Trail to Kamakura Station, I found this adorable taiyaki shop, which has all sorts of unusual flavors: tsubushi-an (tsubuan, or chunky anko), matcha-an (matcha mixed with anko), kurogoma-an (black sesame mixed with anko), and yakikuri-an (roasted chestnut and anko); sometimes there is an extra seasonal flavor. I tried the black sesame and loved it. The shop seems to be making a sakura-an one, so get it while it’s still cherry-blossom season!
The other unusual aspect of the shop is the taiyaki molds, which make one taiyaki at a time in a distinctive grill. (Price: 150-200 yen)
Check out today’s menu on the blog.
江ノ島電鉄 由比ヶ浜駅・長谷駅近く 文学館入口
Kanagawa-ken Kamakura-shi Hase 1-8-10
Near the Enoshima-line Yuigahama Station and Hase Station at Bungakukan Iriguchi
3. Chocolate Taiyaki with Custard
Taiyaki Furusato, Matsumoto, 12 Feb. 2011
I spent the long weekend before Valentine’s Day traveling around Nagano with a friend, and we took a stroll down Nawate-doori after seeing the castle. I could not resist the siren song of limited-edition chocolate taiyaki for Valentine’s Day.My friend and I were also quite confused by the sign for ウィーナー (“wiener,” or Viennese sausage) taiyaki, but according to the website, it’s the specialty!
たい焼きふるさと Taiyaki Furusato
390-0874 Nagano-ken, Matsumoto-shi, Omote-4-1, Nawate-doori (the Nawate shopping street by the frog statues, not too far from Matsumoto Castle)
No fixed holidays
Price: 150-200 yen
4. Daibutsu-yaki with Tofu Cream
Konato-an, Nara; 30 March 2011
My parents came to Japan for the first time last month, so I took them on a tour of Nara. Across the street from the Kintetsu Nara Station (近鉄奈良駅) is Konato-an (古奈都庵), which has Daibutsu-yaki (大佛焼き; yes, that second kanji is correct) shaped like the Daibutsu (大仏) of Nara. The tofu cream is lovely, reminiscent of cream cheese, and the shape is certainly unique.
Nara-shi, Higashimukikita-machi 30-2
Shoutengai Shinkoukai Building, 1st floor
Price: 180 yen for the daibutsu-yaki.
Review on Turn My Eyes.
Review on Nara Area Blog.
If you know of a place with interesting taiyaki, leave me a comment!