Taiyaki is a fish shaped sweets made flour which is similar to pancake, and normally filled with azuki sweet bean paste. The word “tai” means sea bream, and “yaki” means bake. Sea bream is a symbol of good luck in Japan, and pastry chefs decided to use its shape so taiyaki bring good luck. Taiyaki has been eaten since the Meiji period.
It is made from batter which is a mixture of flour, sugar, and baking powder, and the batter is poured into a fish shaped iron mould. Sweet bean paste is put on one side, and will be sand between two moulds.
Taiyaki derived from imagawayaki, which also uses batter made from flour, and sandwiches sweet bean paste with batter poured on round moulds. After imagawayaki became popular, baked sweets resembling different kinds of animals were made, but taiyaki became mainstream, because as stated above, sea bream is a symbol that is believed to bring good luck.
There are two ways to bake taiyaki. One way is to bake one taiyaki at a time, which is called tennennmono (天然物) meaning natural product, and requires professional technique. The other way is to bake multiple taiyaki at once which is called yoshokumono (養殖物) meaning cultivated product, and most taiyaki shops use this way of baking. The crust of tennenmono is thin and crispy compared to that of yoshokumono.
Nowadays, there are various filling used for taiyaki. For example, using Western confectionary cream such as chocolate, caramel, and custards are popular. There also used to be white taiyaki using tapioca for the batter that makes the crust white. Taiyaki which sandwich ingredients such as chicken, ham, and fresh vegetables instead of sweet filling is now becoming popular as fast food.