The Biggest Taiyaki Mistake You're Making

If you're a fan of Japanese cuisine, chances are you've seen these adorable sweet treats on the menu at a few places. For those who may not be familiar, taiyaki are tasty fish-shaped pastries with a crisp exterior and an interior filled with sweetened red bean paste, although a few spots get creative and offer alternate fillings as well. Given the simplicity of ingredients involved, it's not too tough to craft your very own taiyaki at home, provided you have the unique fish-shaped pan to shape your treats. There's just one major mistake to avoid when it comes to crafting taiyaki, and it has to do with how much batter you're using.

The one error that many novice cooks make when it comes to taiyaki, is placing way too much batter in the fish-shaped pans. You may assume that you need to fill the small molds right to the top in order to get the full shape, but that's not the case. In fact, you should only be filling them about halfway before adding your filling in the center and slowly incorporating a bit more batter to ensure you capture all the edges of the design. If you add a bit too much, you can simply trim off the messy edges once the taiyaki is cooked. However, if you add way too much, you'll likely end up with an amorphous pastry that looks nothing like the fish it's supposed to resemble.

Additional tips for the perfect taiyaki

One other key thing to consider when making taiyaki is the heat you're cooking them at. The unique treat is somewhat of a cross between a waffle and a cake, and the cooking process can be a bit tricky. After all, you want the exterior to be crisp and showing off that signature design, but you don't want it burned. At the same time, you don't want a perfect exterior and raw batter in the interior around the filling. The secret is to cook the treats low and slow — given the petite size of the pastries, it should still only take a few minutes.

Finally, when it comes to the filling, store bought is absolutely fine. Hidenori Takada, the owner of a gourmet Japanese grocery shop, told the Food Network that making the red bean paste filling from scratch can take a staggering 10 hours. He recommends the Shirakiku brand red bean paste, and also highlights that there are smooth and coarse varieties, suggesting smooth for those that may not have sampled red bean paste before. If you want to mix up your taiyaki fillings, vanilla custard and Nutella are two alternatives you might want to try out as well. Or, if you're really looking to get creative, you can repurpose the taiyaki for other desserts — it's become a bit of a trend to use fish-shaped pastry as an ice cream cone for a chilly treat.