Taiyaki, the fish-shaped street snack made by filling a cast-iron mold with batter, then stuffing with sweet azuki bean and baking until crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, was created in 1909 at Naniwa-ya, a tiny shop in Azabujuban. Naniwa-ya still makes each taiyaki one at a time in individual molds instead of the commercial molds that can make up to dozens per minute, which is why if you happen to stop by in search of a hot, freshly made taiyaki, you might be told to come back in an hour due to the waitlist ahead of you.

Having been deterred by the long wait on a couple previous attempts, on a recent Sunday afternoon I was determined to get my hands on a taiyaki, even if it meant waiting. The plan was to put in an order, have lunch at a nearby restaurant, then come back to pick up the taiyaki for dessert. For some inexplicable reason, on that day, when we requested two taiyaki, the vendors merely muttered “sanbyaku yen” and handed us two piping hot fish waffles in individual white paper bags. Finally – the fish waffle gods were on my side!

Naniwa-ya’s taiyaki is slightly burnt around the edges, crispy and chock full of azuki beans. To be honest, I found the batter to be a teeny bit bland as I am used to (and prefer) the sweeter version found at many street vendors, but appreciated Naniwa-ya’s artisan craft that goes into making each taiyaki individually with care, just as they did 101 years ago.

– Deb

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