Of all of the varieties of pancake available in Japan, the fish-shaped taiyaki sold by street vendors are the ones we’re always drawn to. A sweet, tender waffley outer shell, hiding its scalding hot filling of red bean paste or on rare occasions custard or white beans. Historically they came about as a seasonal variation of imagawayaki during the Meiji era, changing the squat cylindrical mould into one shaped like a sea-bream, a fish that only the wealthy could afford and that was generally reserved for festivals. The anko (red bean) filling is slightly off-putting to many westerners, so we’ve opted for the milder, smoother shiro-an (white bean) filling which has a soft marzipan texture to it and a slightly nutty taste.
To make taiyaki you’ll need a cast-iron taiyaki pan, if you don’t have one then you can use the same recipe to make shiro-an dorayaki- just fry the batter as small round pancakes and sandwich the filling between them.
- 200g dried butter beans
- 200g white caster sugar
- Wash the butter beans, removing any that are damaged or unsightly, and soak in cold water for 24 hours. This length of soaking will ensure they make a smooth non-grainy paste when cooked. After they’ve been soaked, the beans will be plump and swollen to around twice their dry size.
- Put the soaked beans in a pan, and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil and cook for 5 minutes, then drain the beans and add fresh cold water, and bring to the boil again, cooking for 5 minutes as before. Drain again, and add more clean cold water, but this time simmer the beans on a medium heat until they are fully cooked- this will take around 1 1/2 hours. Make sure you top up the pan with water if it needs it, as the beans may discolour if cooked in too little water.
- Once the cooking time is up, drain most of the water off the butter beans. Take a metal sieve and push the soft beans and leftover water through the mesh into a bowl- the excess water will help the beans remain workable. This stage helps separate the skin particles from the bean paste, keeping the shiro-an smooth.
- When you have finished this, allow your water and de-skinned bean mixture to settle in the bowl. The heavier bean mash will sink to the bottom of the bowl, allowing you to carefully scoop off the water at the top. When you have only bean ‘slush’ left, line a sieve with a clean tea towel or straining bag and pour the liquid through. Squeeze the towel to remove as much water from your bean paste as you can.
- Add this crumbly mass to 200g sugar in a saucepan, and mix to combine. When you add the sugar, your seemingly stiff bean paste will suddenly liquefy- you need to then cook over a medium heat for around 10 minutes, stirring constantly so it doesn’t stick on the pan and burn, until the paste has thickened and turns glossy. Allow your shiro-an to cool completely before filling your taiyaki. The paste can be kept wrapped in the fridge for 3-4 days, so you can make this stage in advance and cook the taiyaki on another day.
- 175g plain flour
- 1 tablespoon cornflour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 2 eggs, separated
- 250ml milk
- 1 tablespoon butter
- Sift the flour, cornflour, baking powder, salt, sugar and bicarbonate of soda together in a large bowl.
- Meanwhile, melt the butter and let it cool slightly then mix together the milk and egg yolks and slowly add the melted butter.
- Add the milk and egg mixture to the flours and stir until combined thoroughly.
- Whisk the egg whites until they have reached the soft peak stage then gently fold them into the batter, making sure no streaks of white are remaining.
To cook the taiyaki.
All taiyaki pans are slightly different; some are larger than others, some have two indents rather than one, some require greasing with oil while others may be non-stick, so your first couple of taiyaki will be slightly experimental until you get the feel for how your pan behaves.
- Lightly grease both sides of your taiyaki pan with cooking oil and place on your hob to heat up. When the pan is about the same temperature you would cook pancakes at, remove it from the heat, spoon approximately 45ml (three tablespoons) of batter into one fish shaped indent and return to the heat.
- After about 30 seconds of cooking, spoon 2 teaspoons of shiro-an on, or if your paste is thick enough, form it into a sausage about 3″ long and place onto the centre of the batter.
- Immediately add another tablespoon of batter over the top of the shiro-an, close your taiyaki pan and flip it over. Cook your taiyaki for around a minute on the second side, checking that it has reached a light golden brown colour on both sides before removing from the pan.
- Repeat this procedure for the rest of your taiyaki. You may find that you have excess shiro-an after you have used up all your batter, you can either serve it as wagashi or make yourself another batch of delicious taiyaki.
Makes 8-10 taiyaki, depending on pan-size.