Have you ever tried taiyaki? What even is taiyaki, and where can you find it? Taiyaki is a street cart snack consisting of a grilled cake filled and shaped like a fish. It is typically found at Japanese street fairs and festivals. Taste-wise, it’s similar in flavor and texture to a waffle and prepared similarly too.
Traditional taiyaki is a simple and delicious affair typically filled with red bean, custard, or both. In Japan, flavored custard is about as wild as it gets. You may even find a croissant taiyaki, which uses croissant dough and fills it with the typical red bean and custard fillings. It makes for a perfect portable snack because you can easily munch on it as you walk through the streets without making a mess.
Taiyaki has even made its way to the U.S., though with a unique and tasty spin. Meet taiyaki ice cream. Instead of eating the taiyaki as is, the taiyaki has been turned into a cone made fresh when you order and filled with soft serve. You can choose a filling for your taiyaki cone, which includes red bean or custard. Then you select which ice cream you would like. Toppings and drizzles are optional but add an extra layer of decadence.
Taiyaki NYC in New York’s Chinatown was one of the first to bring these sweet treats abroad. If you follow any food accounts, you might have seen their unique flavored taiyaki creations across social media. Think golden brown fish-shaped “cones” hollowed out to make room for a generous swirl of matcha or strawberry ice cream often. Bonus points for a pair of edible unicorn ears and a horn and a dash of sprinkles.
Using the taiyaki as a cone is a brilliant modern take on the old classic street food snack. The resulting dessert is still just as portable but made even tastier with the addition of ice cream. Ice cream enhances most desserts, so ice cream taiyaki just makes sense. Eat your way through the cold ice cream until you reach the warm taiyaki and get a taste of ice cream with every bite of taiyaki.
Ice cream taiyaki can also be found in the freezer section of Japanese grocery stores. Though the kind you’ll find there won’t be exactly the same. For one, it’s frozen so the cake-like portion won’t be warm and made fresh to order. It will also look more similar to the traditional taiyaki though it will be filled with a thin layer of red bean and ice cream. The outside cake portion is thinner and more similar to the texture of a cake cone. Typical flavors include vanilla, strawberry, and matcha.
All three versions of taiyaki are different, so it’s hard to compare and say which is better. The traditional taiyaki is ideal for a light casual snack since it isn’t overly heavy or filling. The freshly prepared taiyaki ice cream cone makes for a decadent dessert using the classic taiyaki as a base for ice cream. The prepackaged store-bought ice cream taiyaki is a simple sweet dessert taking inspiration from the traditional taiyaki. This version, though it uses many elements from the classic taiyaki, tastes the least similar to the classic street food sweet.
So which reigns supreme? We say there is no winner. So if you can, try them all.