Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Taiyaki Adventure WED & an announcement!

Announcing the first Food Blogger's WED Night at Yuzu!!! It's actually not my idea, but the brilliant Fatemeh of Gastronomie made the wonderful suggestion to have our next WED event at Yuzu. Because I think sushi is SOOOO photogenic and a fun challenge to photograph and describe, I think this is a perfect WED Food Blogger's event! Come and enjoy the food and company and get some new material for your writing and food photography!

March 30th, 7:00 PM, Yuzu in San Mateo; I think something like $50 per person for food, not including drinks, would get us a nice assortment of The Chef's recommendations. If you are interested in joining us, please send me an email or post me a comment, so I can RSVP with the right number!

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This is the first time I am actually writing about my WED event on Wednesday! Tonight, I made taiyaki for the first time and it was so much fun!!

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This all started out with a post I saw on Chowhound - someone by the name of "Ume" looking for a taiyaki pan... A taiyaki pan!! What a strange object to be querying about and even stranger, the same object has been sitting idle in my kitchen for the last several years unused! I instinctively posted back to the Mysterious Ume, replying that I was willing to part with my taiyaki pan if s/he would allow me to take pictures of the taiyaki pan in action before the hand over. A few moments later, I start to wonder whether this was a really bad idea - what if this Ume character is just out to cause trouble, secretly plotting to slice pieces of the owner into their taiyaki pans... I mumble to the Papa Bear my plans later in the evening and find myself greeted with the same skeptic response, consisting of "You are going to where with who that you met where?!" I soon decide that this may have been a really naive, typical Alice move, and I vow to not tell anyone else about it until the event takes place. Of course, in retrospect, I probably should've told everyone where I was going to be - in case the Mysterious Ume actually is a taiyaki-obsessed serial killer, I would want everyone to know where I was...

Well, the Mysterious Ume was also weary of the strange Alice offering her a free taiyaki pan. The Mysterious Ume turns out to be a very charming foodie, Melissa, and she confessed to googling my name to make sure I wasn't some taiyaki pan-totting serial killer. She graciously offered her kitchen for our taiyaki adventure, and we had a absolutely lovely time exploring the complex and ever-changing taiyaki operation.

I brought my Japanese taiyaki batter recipe, consisting of:

1 egg, beaten
30 g sugar
200 ml whole milk
160 g flour
2/3 tsp baking powder

The ingredients were added sequentially in the order listed above and beaten well between each addition. We used commercially available "anko" bean paste that I've also had in my kitchen for a while. We greased the pan for the first try, but we ended up not greasing it afterwards, as it did not seem to make the slightest difference whether we greased the pan or not.

We heated the pan on low heat until water 'danced' and sizzled when dropped into the pan. We then filled the pan half way with the batter.

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And then we followed it with anko. The trick, we later found out, was to have pre-rolled single-serving clumps of anko, which could easily be added to the mold right after pouring the batter.

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We quickly poured more batter to cover, closed the plates, and flipped it over to cook the top side first. Since the bottom side had been heating a while, the pan must have been hot enough to maintain browning - the bottom side was almost always a beautiful golden color at the end.

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The taiyaki batter, much like the Belgian waffle batter, puffs up and rises as it cooks, pushing the pans apart. We knew our taiyaki's were close to being ready when we saw them playing peek-a-boo...

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We had some beauties jumping out of the taiyaki pan, including one that had the most gorgeous gradations of color at its belly, just like the real snappers...

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And generally, these were filled perfectly with abundant anko to be a luxurious snack.

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We had one with a neural tube defect... Ladies, please remember to take your folate supplements...

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By the end, Melissa had the process down with complete efficiency and the confident assertiveness of a taiyaki master. She whipped out a number of perfectly browned, lusciously plump taiyaki's.

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Our very flattering tasters, Lana, Jaya, and the Papa Bear, gave very rave reviews, and I have to agree - these hot-off-the-pan taiyakis were excellent!! They were just as good, if not better, than the taiyaki treats I had as a child at the street fairs in Japan!!!

One question I didn't know the answer to was the significance of the tai (red snapper) shape, so I goggled and found an answer (in Japanese). Taiyakis are modeled after tai, because tai was a luxury item that few ordinary Japanese citizens could afford in 1881, when the first taiyaki was introduced by the son of a banker from Osaka. He initially sold the anko packed cakes in the shape of turtles, but switched to the tai, long considered a symbol of prosperity and luck, because frankly, the turtles just weren't doing it for his business. The rest is history, with the taiyaki commanding respect even across the Pacific in San Francisco. I find it rather ironic that the tai, once too precious to land on most dinner tables in Japan, is now far more common than taiyaki in most US cities...

taiyaki8

18 comments:

Robyn said...

I LOVE TAIYAKI!!!! !!! Thanks for the post! Now I really want to make my own.

The Papa Bear said...

Yep, the lovely Melissa and Alice demonstrated their taiyaki mastery by producing these yummy golden fish; they go very well with fragrant tea. Wonderful evening!

Mark said...

Mmmmmmm...Taiyaki! Oishisou!

Heather said...

Now if only I could find a somewhat inexpensive taiyaki pan ... i had it a few times from a Circle K in Japan, and since moving to the US again, I've gotten hunger pangs for it ...

Anonymous said...

I had searched for months for a taiyaki mold ... many sites listed it but none available ... none of the import stores had them ...
The only one I've been able to locate is sold by www.ekitron.com (which appears to be the same as yours). $22
Many thanks for the real life instructions and pics.... saved me some grief and the results were fabulous ... the only change I made was that I added 6 teaspoons of sugar to my 2 cups of flour to get a sweeter taste of the cake. That seemed to match the taste that I remember the one time I nailed some in SFO. I had never heard of these things til they figured prominently in a couple of little anime series (Kanon and Mahoraba: Heartful Days) I watched.
Thanks again for the tips.

Anonymous said...

I had taiyaki when in Japan and loved it too. But in addition to the sweet one, there were some savory ones...chicken and beef in some sort of creamy sauce. Am I remembering correctly?

Jae said...

Thanks for the story.

I had been looking for a pan for months--and ekitron has been sold out for a while.

I managed to find a pan at topfoodservice.com and I just ordered one.

http://www.topfoodservice.com/Merchant2/merchant.mvc?Screen=PROD&Product_Code=JKWCWGP005

I hope taiyaki look as good as yours when I start making them next week.

Anonymous said...

argh... now topfoodservice.com says they're out of stock.
Ekitron has been out of stock for months now.

Is this some malevolent conspiracy to prevent the making of taiyaki in America? What is the problem here?

I'm now wading through the Japan-based kitchen supply sites in the hope one might ship to the US.

lauren said...

Umm, is their a place online where I could by the taiyaki online?

Anonymous said...

If you're near an asian food market, sometimes they'll have them in little packages (Uwajimaya usually carries them for example). The problem is the packaged ones lack the warmth and flavor of a freshly made one and you might wonder what the fuss is about.

I've never found any that can be sold online outside of Japan (I did find a japanese place once that would deliver fresh taiyaki to homes in their area).

Still no luck on molds from ekitron or topfoodservice ... stepping through some export sites located in Japan now.... this is becoming some sort of stupid quest because its so aggravating. I'd *like* to find a larger one that sits on a grill so I can run a booth at our local asian festivals.

Anonymous said...

You can actually find a taiyaki-ki (taiyaki mold) on amazon.com! Sells for about $25 USD and cooks two taiyaki at a time.

Anonymous said...

=/ i've been looking for a taiyaki-ki yet still no luck, does anyone know where i could find one?

Anonymous said...

eKitron.com has them again. I just ordered mine last night ^^

Anonymous said...

:) thank you

Anonymous said...

3T melted butter 1 1/4 c. flour
1 1/4 c. milk 1/4 t salt
1 egg beaten 2T sugar
1 T baking powder

This is my Taiyaki recipe. Try it sometime. It's so yummy. Aubrey

Anonymous said...

P.S.- I bought my pan on Amazon.com through ekitron. It came in about a week ;)

-Aubrey (@greeble.org)

superlocal said...

thanks so much for the post, esp recipe & pics! just got myself one and can't wait to make my first! keep up the good work!
cheers,
superlocal

Anonymous said...

Hello,

It must be strange to get a post from a stranger about a blog post you wrote three years ago, but thanks to Google, here we are.

I bought my own taiyaki mold, something of a novelty*, but I was at a loss for the recipe and the procedure. There were a few solutions on the web out there, but your post is by far the most detailed and helpful. I'm excited to give your method a try, as my previous attempts relied on my notoriously bad intuition and thus weren't very impressive.

But, being that I'm completely inept when it comes to cooking, I had a few questions I hope you won't mind answering...

1. Should I rest my mold directly on the flame? I've been hovering the mold above it, like a marshmallow over a campfire. That's mostly out of concern for burning my beautiful mold, but if it's proper to rest it directly on the burner, I'll bite my lip and let it endure the battle scars.

2. In your post, you mentioned heating one side, pouring the batter/filling/more batter in, then closing and flipping. Is that the only time you flip? I'd been rotating it periodically, thinking that it would make for an even cook on both sides.

3. Is there a ballpark time for how long they should be over the flame, or just wait for the "peek-a-boo?"


Even if you can't answer my questions, I want to thank you again for writing such a great article. I look forward to attempting taiyaki again, this time armed with a real recipe and solid information. : )

Tom



*My taiyaki mold is shaped like a Pokemon fish, Magikarp. Here's a picture of it...