Japanese taiyaki are filled pancakes cooked in the shape of a fish. I imagine the fish is a symbol for luck, but at its most simple form, it’s a pancake with filling. I’ve seen different variations of it around Asia. In Hong Kong and Taiwan, it comes in a circular shape and the texture is somewhere between a pancake and a waffle.

The taiyaki are served warm, right off the griddle, while the filling is still warm. Usually, it will be filled with popular Asian fillings such as mashed red bean, custard, green tea custard, sesame or as I had seen last year in Japan, pumpkin cream.

You can order an at-home taiyaki griddle or just use a muffin pan and make a top and bottom, putting filling in on one the halves. A word to the wise about these taiyaki griddles is that it is very hard to evenly heat them. Especially if you have an open gas stove, be prepared for patchy fish that may be more burnt in some areas than others. Know that the final product will taste good even though the fish may not be evenly colored.

If you’re nit-picky like I am, use a skewer to lift up the pancake to check whether it is the color you want before flipping it. In general, it takes about 3 minutes on medium heat, but it really depends on your stove and your batter.

Japanese Taiyaki with Pumpkin Custard Filling

(Makes 4)

Batter:

  • 1 1/4 cup almond milk
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • pinch salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric

Pumpkin Custard Filling:

  • 1/3 cup coconut milk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons almond milk
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup (more to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon Earth Balance butter
  • dash salt
  • 1/6 cup pureed pumpkin

Directions

  1. For the filling, combine coconut milk and maple syrup in a pot.
  2. Combine the cornstarch and almond milk until there are no lumps. Pour into coconut mixture and bring to a slight boil while whisking. Once mixture is thickened, turn off heat.
  3. Add in the Earth Balance butter, salt and pumpkin puree. Whisk until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator for 30 minutes.
  4. For the batter, combine the almond milk and apple cider vinegar. Let sit for 15 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, combine the flour, baking powder, turmeric and salt.
  6. Once the almond milk has thickened, whisk in the maple syrup and coconut oil. Add in the dry mixture and whisk until combined. Set batter aside.
  7. To cook, heat taiyaki pan over medium heat for 4-5 minutes until pan is hot. Brush pan with oil and pour in batter, moving it around to cover entire fish mould. Cook for 3 minutes, checking for browning with skewer.
  8. Once mixture has bubbled up and 3 minutes have passed, spoon on 1-2 tablespoons of filling onto the center.
  9. Using a skewer, lift up the other half of the fish and place on top of the custard mixture. Cook for an additional 30 seconds to 1 minute before flipping the pan and doing the same on the other side.
  10. Can be eaten immediately.