Basics of the Japanese traditional sweet Taiyaki
Challenge Taiyaki-making at the “Asakusa Taiyaki Guraku”!
Report about making original Taiyaki
What are the recommended ingredients? My 3 Best Original Taiyaki!
The store stocked a variety of ingredients.
Conclusion

Taiyaki is one of the favorite traditional sweets for the Japanese. Taiyaki, stuffed with sweet red bean paste, is very popular for not only Japanese but also for overseas visitors. Do you know that there is a shop where you can choose your own ingredients and make original Taiyaki? I went to the Taiyaki speciality store “Asakusa Taiyaki Guraku” located in Asakusa, which is one of the most popular tourist areas in Tokyo, and participated in a Taiyaki cooking class. I tried to create the “a taiyaki unlike anything before it”. During the class I made several varieties of Taiyaki from a basic sweet flavor to unusual ingredients. I will report about the experience and introduce interesting and fun points of Taiyaki making.

Basics of the Japanese traditional sweet Taiyaki

I want to describe to everyone the basics before introducing how to create original Taiyaki.

Very popular Taiyaki!  Why is it called Taiyaki (Baked red snapper)

Taiyaki is so popular that you can easily buy it nationwide. Just as the name “Tai”(red snapper) suggests it looks like the fish red snapper. Do you know the reason why the cake`s shape is shaped this way?

Long-loved Japanese traditional sweet Taiyaki

As the story is goes, Taiyaki was created by Seijirou Kanbe, the first owner of the dessert store Naniwaya Souhonten founded in 1909. However, there are various versions to the story of how Taiyaki was invented. The book The Dictionary of Food Origins (author: Tetsu Okada/ Publisher: Tokyo-do Shuppan) states that first Mr. Kanbe started selling “Imagawayaki” but it was not successful. He then tried to sell the dessert with a turtle shape “Kameyaki” but it failed too. However, when he changed the shape to Tai(red snapper), which has a happy meaning (coming from a pun crossing “tai” with “medetai”, meaning happiness), the red snapper shaped sweet cake flew off the shelves.
 *Imagawayaki is also a dessert which is baked with a batter of flour and eggs and filled with a sweet red bean paste or custard cream. It is also a Japanese popular sweet which you can find nationwide.
In Japanese, Tai (red snapper) sounds like ‘Mede Tai (=Happy)’ therefore the fish red snapper is associated with good luck. The god “Ebisu”, who is one of the seven deities of the Japanese native Shinto religion and symbolizes prosperity, also holds a red snapper. Red snapper was considered to be a luxury food and was not generally available for most people. Therefore the creator of Taiyaki thought that if the shape of the cake symbolized the food people want to have, red snapper, and it is easily available, then everyone will want to have it. The result was the shape of today’s Taiyaki.

Are you a “natural” Taiyaki person? or a “fish farm” Taiyaki person?

There are two methods to make Taiyaki and a different name for each style.
Taiyaki baked in a single mold one by one is called “natural” Taiyaki. Several Taiyaki made together in a multi-cake cast-iron mold is called “fish farm” Taiyaki. Originally Taiyaki was baked one by one in the “natural” style. However, it is more efficient to cook several cakes at the same time and “fish farm” Taiyaki became mainstream.  Let’s see how the two methods result in different flavors.
■Fish farm style

Fish farm style Taiyaki- making a lot of cakes at one time
The fish farm style of Taiyaki baking allows for making 6-10 or more cakes at one time. To make the cakes the batter is poured into the mold and the sweet red bean paste is added on one side.Finally,  the two sides of the mold are combined like a sandwich. The fish farm style of Taiyaki cooking results in a thicker crust and an enjoyable fluffy texture compared to the natural style of baking,

■Natural style

Natural style baking one by one

Natural style Taiyaki cooking is by hand using a single baking mold. (but sometimes two Taiyaki molds are used and are also called natural style) In one side of the mold the batter is poured, the ingredients are added, then more batter placed on top. Then the other side of the mold is pressed together with the first side. This method makes a crispy crust compared to the fish farm style. The special characteristics of the natural style, are that making each cake one by one requires more care while cooking and additional time is needed.

Challenge Taiyaki-making at “Asakusa Taiyaki Guraku”!

As someone who likes Taiyaki, I have tried a variety of them at many stores. But this is my first time creating my own original Taiyaki. I think this is a great chance to experiment and find out what kinds of ingredients go well with the crust.

I visited “Asakusa Taiyaki Guraku”, located in Asakusa, since I heard that at this store I could try making my original Taiyaki. Although other places host Taiyaki-making experiences too, not many allow you to bring your own ingredients. In Tokyo, this is the only one that allows you to do so. This store appeared to be popular not only with Japanese but also for overseas visitors. Even though it was a weekday, the class even had walk-in participants.


Asakusa Taiyaki Guraku

You can participate without bringing anything, since aprons and other necessities are prepared for participants. However, it is better to not wear nice clothes just in case. At Guraku you can not only take lessons, but also purchase Taiyaki or enjoy ice cream and shaved ice during the summer. This is a perfect rest spot for Asakusa sightseers.


The Japanese atmosphere inside the store

Report about making original Taiyaki

Let’s try making original Taiyaki! This time the store’s owner Joh was the instructor. He taught us beginners politely and with kindness.

First in a tatami mat room, we watched a 15 min video and learned about the history and how to make Taiyaki. The video’s explanation was easy to understand and made the beginner participants feel at ease. The video had captions for overseas visitors who could watch it together with us.


First we watched the video and learned about the history and how to make Taiyaki

1. Ingredient preparation

After the video was over we started preparing the ingredients.
This time, since I had made up my mind to make a “taiyaki unlike anything before it!”, I prepared various ingredients since we could cook up to six Taiyaki using a fish farm style mold and bake them all at once.
I chose the ingredients carefully with the  theme of “the healthiest Taiyaki in Japan” for four of the six cakes.Taiyaki is made with flour and sweet bean paste so we need to be watchful about calories. However, many of the ingredients that were prepared were good for both women and vegetarians. The traditional Japanese sweet became a great health food! 
①Caprese style with tomatoes and mozzarella

Mozzarella cheese flavored tofu, tomato, olive oil, and basil sauce

②Guacamole salad style

Avocado and commercially available spices

③Natto and kimuchi

Kimuchi (stocked by the store) and natto

④Namul

Namul and gochujang
The remaining two Taiyaki are desserts. I made one Taiyaki with sweet red bean paste and the other with tapioca. 
⑤ Sweet red bean paste with cheese
Ingredients: high quality sweet red bean paste (stocked by the store) and cheese

⑥ Matcha flavored bean paste and brown sugar tapioca
Ingredients: matcha-flavored bean paste and matcha paste (stocked by the store) and brown sugar tapioca
How will each taste? Let’s check the results!
By the way, I also used some ingredients prepared by the store. Even if you do not bring your own ingredients, you can try making different flavors of Taiyaki since the store stocks several items like kimuchi and matcha paste.

※This time I prepared the ingredients at the store for taking photographs. However, it is best to bring your own ingredients ready to put on the batter or the one-hour lesson time will run out.

2. Making batter

After completing preparation of the ingredients, next is making the batter. Mix the flour and water together but be careful not to whip too much.

Mix flour and water together to make batter
Put the batter into a tool called a “chakkiri”, used for pouring the batter into the molds. Heat up the iron molds for baking the Taiyaki. 

3.The prep is done. Let’s try to bake!

To avoid burning the Taiyaki, it is important to be careful of timing. I checked with Joh about the procedures again. I put some batter into the molds when the heat was just right for baking.


Pour some batter into the molds

When I poured some batter into the iron molds, Joh suggested to me that the amount of the batter was not enough. The batter begins to cook immediately as it enters the mold, so a degree of speed is needed as you pour the required amount. You should use a bit more batter than you expect. After you finish pouring the molds, spread the batter evenly using something like a spoon.


Spread batter into the mold with a spoon
One tip is to work quickly and rhythmically, so that there is little variance between the appearance of the six baked Taiyaki.
Next you will put some ingredients on top of the surface of the batter.

Adding some ingredients on top of the batter
I somehow managed to finish adding all of the ingredients, even while fighting with the foaming threads of natto and overflowing tapioca. 
When you are finished with putting the ingredients on the batter, then pour batter into the opposite molds. The iron molds with all of the batter and ingredients had a lot of weight. Even raising the handles a little bit takes quite an effort, and . I felt sympathy for the store’s staff who must endure the hard work of baking Taiyaki every day. 


The heavy weight iron cast molds with all of the ingredients and batter
Finally, fold the molds together. It takes about 2 minutes to completely finish baking. As the batter cooked, a sweet and tantalizing smell gradually filled the air.

Fold the iron molds and bake
When the alarm sounds, remove the Taiyaki from the molds and place them on a wooden board. They were perfectly cooked. My original Taiyaki were complete and freshly baked!

Original Taiyaki cooked

What are the recommended ingredients? Original Taiyaki best 3!

While they were still hot I tasted the cakes. There were six original Taiyaki, but these were the three that I thought were the most delicious.
■No. 3: matcha brown tapioca

Matcha mucovado tapioca Taiyaki
I ranked a dessert type cake as No.3. The ingredients were matcha flavored bean paste and matcha paste, which were stocked by the store, and commercially available brown flavored tapioca. The tapioca’s sticky texture still remained in the Taiyaki! The smooth taste of the matcha flavored bean paste and the chewy tapioca combined well with the soft crust. I enjoyed the new and unique texture of this Taiyaki. I also gave it high points because the matcha flavor reduced the sweetness of the Taiyaki to a good level.

■No. 2: Guacamole salad style (avocado dip sauce)

Guacamole salad style Taiyaki
Guacamole is one a kind of sauce in Mexican dishes. As you may know, it is also popular as a dipping sauce for chips. The mild avocado and the hot spice, together with the sweetness of the Taiyaki batter matched very well and my assistant also loved this combination! This Taiyaki had an irresistible flavor for spice lovers and confidently ranks in at number 2.
■No. 1: Caprese style with tomatoes and mozzarella

Caprese style taiyaki
The No.1 choice went to the Italian salad style Taiyaki made with healthy tofu which had a similar texture to mozzarella cheese.
The basil sauce topping on the Taiyaki, the tomato’s acidity, and the mildness of the tofu’s flavor combined very well and made me very satisfied. The basil taste also complemented the Taiyaki’s mild sweet crust. Thanks to the tomato’s acidity, the Taiyaki had a fresh aftertaste that kept me wanting more. 
The 3 best Taiyaki I chose this time all had strong flavors which were not overshadowed by the thick crust. Also, the amount of ingredients greatly affected the results. In the Taiyaki with not enough ingredients the flavors did not shine through.

I recommend that you add a lot of ingredients

I worried about whether I could finish the six Taiyaki at one time, but with the varied flavors I could enjoy all of them. I discovered a new side of Taiyaki and  successfully created my original Taiyaki!
*If you cannot finish all of the Taiyaki, you can take them home in a souvenir box.

The store stocked a variety of ingredients.

Aside from the ones I listed above, the store stocks a variety of ingredients such as red bean paste and custard cream. There is also a variety of spices such as pepper, chocolate sauce, caramel sauce, honey, and several fruit sauces.
While I was there, I also tried the Taiyaki prepared with ingredients recommended by the store owner.
■Sweet potato

Sweet potato Taiyaki
The Taiyaki contained organic sweet potato grown in Kyoto. The mild sweetness and light and fluffy texture were perfect. The Taiyaki was stuffed with sweet potato, making it a voluminous and satisfying one to eat!
■ Curry

Curry Taiyaki

This Taiyaki packs a punch of flavor thanks to  keema curry. The spiciness of the curry  and the gentle sweetness of the crust complemented each other.

The store also has a variety of unusual ingredients for you to create your favorite unique Taiyaki without bringing any items from home.
【Basic information about the Taiyaki cooking lesson】
Prices:Adult 3,500 yen  / Child (elementary to high school student) 2,500 yen / Preschool child free

※Prices exclude tax 
※At least one adult registration required with preschool child
Time:1 hour 

Let’s experience making original Taiyaki at “Asakusa Taiyaki Guraku”!

I enthusiastically dove into my first Taiyaki-making experience with the goal to create something unlike anything before. It was more difficult than I thought to choose good ingredients to that complement the sweet crust. I felt like a professional Taiyaki cook as I speedily poured the batter into the molds and added the ingredients. I heard that some overseas visitors even bring special fillings from their home country for this experience. Please have fun not only making the Taiyaki but also choosing your own ingredients.
You can enjoy the Taiyaki cooking experience with a group. You can of course give it a try with your family, friends, or as a couple. Why not stop by the store when you visit Asakusa?