Taiyaki (鯛焼き, , lit. "baked sea bream"?) is a Japanese fish-shaped cake. The most common filling is red bean paste that is made from sweetened azuki beans. Other common fillings may be custard, chocolate, or cheese. Some shops even sell taiyaki with okonomiyaki, gyoza filling, or a sausage inside.
Taiyaki is made using taiyaki, regular pancake or waffle batter. The batter is poured into a fish-shaped mold for each side. The filling is then put on one side and the mold is closed. It is then cooked on both sides until golden brown.
In popular culture
Taiyaki was the theme of a 1975–76 Japanese hit single, "Oyoge! Taiyaki-kun" ("Swim! Taiyaki") sung by Masato Shimon. The single sold more than 4.5 million copies, and remains the largest-selling Japanese single to this day (as of February 2007[update]). Originally written for a children's TV program, the song was about a taiyaki escaping from the vendor stand into the sea, enjoying his brief freedom there until he is finally caught by a fisherman and consumed. It was a thinly veiled satire of the overworked Japanese businessman, with whom the record struck a chord, resulting in the unexpected mega-hit.
It is practically the only food that Golden Darkness eats in
Sweetest pleasures need not be most costly
Perhaps at the urging of the gods that I go easy on alcohol, I started to develop a sweet tooth in my 50s instead. I sometimes stand in line to buy taiyaki, a fish-shaped pancake stuffed with bean jam. As I open the paper bag and bite into the head sticking out of it, I can feel the steam and sweet scent of bean jam. Blowing on the piping hot pancake to cool it is a winter delight. "I break a taiyaki/ And blow on its guts" is a haiku by Michio Nakahara.
While there are various theories about the origin of taiyaki, Naniwaya Sohonten, a Tokyo maker of Japanese confectionery reputed to be a pioneer, is celebrating its centennial this year. Based on the round-shaped imagawayaki, it developed taiyaki using a mold in the shape of tai sea bream, an expensive fish which is considered auspicious. The idea proved successful. It is also said that the store was the inspiration for "Oyoge! Taiyaki-kun" (Swim! Taiyaki), a hit song of the 1970s.
There are mainly two ways to bake taiyaki. Many establishments of long standing, including Naniwaya, cook them one by one, but others use larger molds that can turn out several taiyaki at once. I heard that like the real fish, they are called tennen-mono (natural) and yoshoku-mono (farm-raised), respectively.
Let me continue with sweet talk. The year of 1909, when taiyaki debuted, was also the year Morinaga Shoten, now Morinaga & Co., sold the first Japanese-made chocolate bar. The company processed bitter chocolate it imported from the United States to make it.
During the Meiji (1868-1912) and Taisho (1912-1926) eras, unfamiliar Western confectionery such as marshmallows, caramel and biscuits drew attention for their novelty. In the century since then, the positions of Western and Japanese sweets have reversed in the market. In fact, Western sweets have become so popular these days that even some taiyaki are filled with such ingredients as chocolate and cream. The trend also owes much to the way makers of Western confectionery took advantage of occasions such as Valentine's Day and Christmas to promote their products.
According to a survey of 400 women by Morinaga, the average amount they planned to spend on honmei chocolates for someone special this year was 1,700 yen, down 900 yen from last year. As the economy continues to slump, if women want to cut down on their budget, why not take a completely different approach and share taiyaki that sell for 300 yen a pair?
--The Asahi Shimbun, Feb. 12(IHT/Asahi: February 13,2009)