Taiyaki Fishing in the Streets of Tokyo

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Freshly ‘caught’… I mean… made taiyakis!

It is a cold, rainy April night in Tokyo and my hands are freezing! What a perfect night to go ‘fishing’ for Taiyakis to warm my hands and belly. Armed with my umbrella, I followed my nose which led me to a long line of people patiently standing under the rain with their umbrellas just to get their hands on this favorite treat. Taiyaki is that popular street snack in Japan shaped like a fish. But nothing smells or taste fishy at all with this treat. On the contrary, it smells heavenly and tastes sweet because it is a pancake/waffle batter- based snack. About 1/3 is poured in fish-shaped metal moulds, then a sweetened filling is spooned in the centre and after which, more batter is added to fill the moulds. It is done when the batter is cooked to a crisp, golden finish.

Damp and shivering but not at all discouraged by the cold and the rain, I too lined up behind a dozen people just to be ablet to taste this taiyaki.

It got its name from ‘Tai’ which means ‘sea bream’ in Japanese. In the olden days, the sea bream fish was a symbol of prosperity and bearer of good luck. However it was such an expensive fish and not everyone could afford it. It is said that it is because of this that some enterprising Japanese created the Taiyaki, for everybody to be able to afford more the symbol of luck and prosperity.

The taiyaki chef is seen preparing the various orders from his customers. You tell him your prefered flavor and he makes it right in front of you. Within a few minutes, you are warming your hands with it and biting into your favorite taiyaki.

I learned that this delicious snack is about 100 years old created right here in the streets of Tokyo. While it was originally created with sweetened red bean paste (azuki) filling, it now comes with many other flavors like custard (which I loved), chocolate, cheese, matcha and sweet potato, to name a few.

Me with my custard taiyaki happily warming my hands and soothing my grumbling tummy.

Nowadays, this cheap, delicious and filling snack is ubiquitous in Japanese streets. I do not know for sure whether this snack really brings prosperity and good luck. What I do know is that it is providing a much desired warmth to my hands and soothing my grumbling tummy… and in my book, that is good enough for me!