How to Make Taiyaki at Home, According to Two Japanese Dessert Experts
Making these charming, fish-shaped pastries is totally doable with these tips.
Crispy, hot and just sweet enough, taiyaki is a quintessential Japanese street food that’s been popular for generations. Commonly described as a cross between cake and waffles, taiyaki is typically filled with sweetened red bean paste (azuki). But its most noteworthy characteristic is its charming fish shape: a symbol of luck and fortune in Japan.
For those looking to make taiyaki at home, it’s not too dissimilar from cooking waffles — you’ll just need a little practice nailing that perfect golden-brown color. We asked Jimmy Chen, co-founder of Taiyaki NYC, and Hidenori Takada, owner of Oishinbo, a gourmet Japanese grocery and sweets shop in New Jersey, for their best tips.
Pick Your Flour Wisely
While all taiyaki recipes call for flour (along with some combination of sugar, milk, egg, water and baking powder), exactly what kind depends on the texture you’re aiming for: fluffy or crispy. “There are many ways to make taiyaki with different kinds of flour,” says Chen. “Some people like the glutinous feeling of rice flour, which is going to end up more like mochi. Other people like regular flour, which is more like cake batter. It’s completely up to your own palate.” Keep experimenting and see what you love to eat. (As for Takada, he prefers wheat flour.)
Skip the Homemade Filling
Unless you’re prepared for a whole lot of work, don’t bother cooking up red bean paste at home — it can take around ten hours. Instead, Takada recommends Shirakiku red bean paste, available online and at specialty grocery stores. “It’s a very popular Japanese brand and comes in two types: coarse and fine,” he says. If it’s your first time trying red bean paste, Takada suggests the smooth variety. While less traditional, Nutella, chocolate and custard also make delicious fillings.
Take It Easy on the Batter
The biggest rookie mistake when making taiyaki? Overfilling your pan. To get a perfect fish shape without any mess, Takada recommends filling the mold 50% full on both sides. Then, after adding your red bean paste to the middle, carefully fill up the rest of the mold with batter little by little. If the batter happens to spill over, you can remove the crispy edges around the fish with a small knife or scissors once it’s finished cooking.
Go Low and Slow
To make sure your taiyaki doesn’t burn inside the mold, keep the heat on medium-low. After cooking on the first side for three minutes, flip the pan over and cook for another two until golden, says Takada.
If you’re craving some extra sweetness, try recreating Taiyaki NYC’s trendy version of the classic dish at home. “For catering, we make a taiyaki sundae,” says Chen. “You put the taiyaki, ice cream, and toppings in a bowl and use a fork and knife.” Mochi, sprinkles and condensed milk are all fun ways to add richness and flavor.