Unlike dorayaki that uses a castella (Portuguese pound cake) batter, taiyaki batter is close to that of American waffles. A fish mold is essential, and you can buy one at an Asian market or online. A taiyaki mold made for the home will have two fish indentations with a lid and a handle. The batter is poured into the indentations. The selected filling is centered in the uncooked batter and then topped with just a bit more batter. After a little cooking on one side, you use the handle to flip over the pan and cook the reverse side.
Sometimes, vendors fill taiyaki with other fillings like custard and chocolate or savory mixtures of cooked bits of meat and vegetables. Although I love the traditional an (red bean paste) and the white (lima bean) paste fillings, I could not resist making an American chocolate chip taiyaki by sprinkling chocolate chips in the center!
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
3 Tbsp. sugar
1-1/2 cups milk
4 Tbsp. butter, melted (may substitute vegetable oil)
1 cup tsubushian or koshian
chocolate chips, optional
Heat both sides of a taiyaki mold pan over medium flame. Lightly oil with a paper towel dampened with vegetable oil. In a large mixing bowl, sift together dry ingredients. In another bowl, whisk eggs, melted butter and milk. Slowly blend the wet ingredients into the dry and mix lightly. Do not overmix.
Pour about ¼ cup of batter into the bottom half of a taiyaki mold. Place about 2 tablespoons of an in the center and then top with additional batter. Let this side cook for a few minutes and then flip to cook the reverse side. Cooking time will vary depending on how hot the taiyaki pan is and how thick the batter. The taiyaki is done when it is golden brown.
There is a popular Japanese childrens song called Oyoge! Taiyaki-kun about a taiyaki fish who escaped the vendor who made it. The brave little fish makes it all the way to the open sea where it is thrilled to swim free among pink coral. The taiyaki survives sharks and finds refuge in an underwater shipwreck but finally is caught by fishermen and eaten. It sounds somewhat like a Japanese version of the Gingerbread Man although Japanese pundits thought its popularity was due to the analogy of the beleaguered taiyaki and the average Japanese working man stuck in an office. The Japanese people cheer on the little taiyaki with hope, but how dismal the ending!
I prefer to make up another end to this story: all the children of Japan now celebrate taiyaki by making two--one to eat in honor of the fish and one to set free to befriend the little taiyaki under the sea. The end.
Make up your own happy taiyaki ending and remember to cook a few for yourself to enjoy.