Seeing as this is a bento-free week, kind of, I thought I would post about my taiyaki adventure.
Taiyaki is a Japanese fish-shaped pancake, often filled with sweetened red bean paste. They are a popular sweet shop or food court food in Japan, and you can make them at home using a few readily available ingredients. While there are special batter mixes you can make, I've found that you can also simply use ready-made waffle mix. I used Bob's Red Mill. As for the bean paste, you can also make your own, but I used a canned version of tsubushi-an. You may be able to find it in your local Asian grocery.
You'll also need a special taiyaki pan.
I got mine from Marukai market. It's made of cast aluminum, and it looks like this. Cute, huh?
All you need to do is make the waffle mix according to the package directions, and put in the fish mold (one side only). Spoon it over the bottom of the pan, about a half inch deep. Then I put a glob of anko in the center. You can smooth it evenly over the batter if you like, as well, all the way down to the tail if you can. Then put more batter on top to cover it.
Cook over a medium flame until the bottom is nicely browned, just like you would a regular pancake. Then, close the pan and flip! This part is fun! Flip "vigorously", so that the taiyaki is sure to dislodge from the pan and flip to the other side. Cook a few more minutes until the other side is browned. You may check it carefully if you need to, by opening the pan a little. The final product should look like this!
You may have to experiment with amount of batter to use, depending on how thick or thin yours is. If you use too much, it'll ooze out the side. Then it may stick and be more difficult to remove. It'll rise a bit, so plan accordingly. Remove and place on a rack to cool.
When you see how easy it is, you may not buy one ever again ;) You might also try other fillings, such as custard or chocolate ~ this is on my list for sure!