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Taiyaki Ice Cream: A 101 Guide to Fish Ice Cream

2020-09-25   ◆   2 minutes read
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Did you know that a very special fish can catch the drip of your ice cream? Japan’s Taiyaki is a great example (without having to go to the ocean) and it’s time you knew about this fish ice cream!

A few Taiyaki stacked on top of one another, seemingly with red bean paste inside.

Ice Cream Cone Varieties

Who doesn’t love to eat cones? Not only are they the environmentally conscious alternative to cups and bowls, but they’re crunchy and mighty fun to munch! The countless choices are available in many shapes and colors, starting with the basic sugar cones, waffle-styles cones in fancier shops, bubble waffles, and even chocolate-coated or pretzel. Today, we’ve decided to focus on the playful Taiyaki cones, straight out of Japan!

A green cone with big bubbles and three delicious-looking flavours of ice cream throughout
A matcha red bean bubble waffle (Golden Bubbles)

Taiyaki Ice Cream

While these fish-shaped cones did make a splash on social media during 2016, the truth is they had been swimming around the Japanese dessert scene long before then. “Tai”, meaning sea bream, is an iconic fish in Japan. Being a symbol of celebration and luck in Japanese culture, pictures of the prized fish can be found above doorways everywhere. People will often offer sweet tai-shaped candies as thank you gifts for special occasions. Moving to the second half of the name, we learn “yaki” translates to fried, baked, or grilled. So combined, “Taiyaki” loosley means “fried fish.”

A beautiful fish cone that looks like it is eating your delicious pink ice cream!
A cone that is so Instagrammable (Le Kamé Snack-Bar)

The fish-shaped cone was said to have been created in Tokyo cafe, Naninwaya Sohonten, in 1909. In South Korea, there is bungeo-ppang, which is a similar pastry shaped like a fish and filled with red bean paste, custard, chocolate, or even sweet potato fillings. It was introduced almost 20 years after Taiyaki and is a compound of “carp (bungeo)” and “bread (ppang).” The various fillings act as a barrier preventing ice cream from pooling in the cone’s tail and leaking onto your hand. It’s important to note that while it’s not only functional, it’s also incredibly chewy and delicious!

A package of Samanco brand bungeo-ppang/
Korean Bungeo-ppang (Bungeo-ppang) matcha fish ice cream

Common Taiyaki Flavours

Typical ice cream flavours for the fish-shaped ice cream include matcha and black sesame, often swirled together in a serpentine dance.But you can also get flavours like vanilla and chocolate. While they can prove difficult to come across, Cafe Taiyaki 52 in Halifax offers visitors matcha and mango in their Jaw Dropper version. Filling choices go beyond that of red bean paste, vanilla custard, and chocolate, too. Here you’ll also find matcha custard, blueberry cream cheese, and even caramelized pineapple!

A beautiful fish cone with swirled yellow and green ice cream topped with gumdrops.
The legendary Jaw Dropper from Café Taiyaki 52

For Canadians unable to visit Nova Scotia for the matcha-mango Jaw Droppers, there’s another option. A dessert knight in shining armour comes in the form of the Korean bingsoo chain, Snowy Village. In addition to their silky, snowy bingsoos, they offer a fish-shaped croissant cone made from rich waffle batter served warm and filled with a variety of options. These include red bean, custard, sweet potato, and injeolmi which is a popular Korean rice cake with a delicate and sweet roasted taste.

Three taiyaki that look fresh and like they haven't even been cut out yet.
Taiyaki from Snowy Village 

If you’re unable to find your own fish ice cream, Bungeo-ppang or fish ice cream, there’s always the classic cones or crunchy waffle ice cream from your local gelato or ice cream shop. But will you dare add red bean mash to the middle, Taiyaki-style, to help you hold the ice cream? Head over to Dessert Advisor to find Taiyaki ice cream near you!

About the author

DessertAdvisor.com is an organization dedicated to the research of desserts, baked goods, and snacks. The community maintains one of the largest databases of dessert items and dessert places in Canada. 

With a mission to facilitate foodies’ search for their desired products, the site allows finding locations that dessert items are sold at, enhances knowledge on various treats (i.e., variety, flavours, health benefits, history, origins, etc.), and enables people to enjoy the wealth of life.

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