Having been introduced to regular crepes and waffles in Europe as I was growing up, it was a new experience for me to venture over to Asia and discover the local variants of these dessert snacks. In the Far East, there are some fish-shaped waffles that every traveller has to try, namely Taiyaki from Japan and Bungeoppang from Korea.
TAIYAKI is a Japanese fish-shaped cake and the most common filling is red bean paste made from sweetened azuki beans. Other common fillings may be custard, chocolate, cheese, or sweet potato. Some shops even sell taiyaki with okonomiyaki, gyoza filling, or a sausage inside.
Taiyaki is made using regular waffle batter. The batter is poured into a fish-shaped mould for each side. The filling is then put on one side and the mold is closed. It is then cooked on both sides until golden brown.
Taiyaki is believed to have originated in Tokyo in Meiji era, and now can be found all over Japan, especially at food courts of supermarkets and Japanese festivals. Even when I was based in Singapore, I often hunted for some taiyaki from the fast food vendors – and I was never disappointed!
BUNGEOPPANG is the Korean name of a pastry similar to the Japanese pastry Taiyaki. They are prepared using an appliance similar to a waffle iron. The batter is poured into a fish-shaped mold, red bean paste is added, then more batter to encase the red bean paste. The mold is then closed, and roasted.
In Korean, bung’eo (붕어) means Carassius, a kind of fish, and ppang (빵) means bread. This name simply comes from the fish-like shape and appearance of the pastry, and it does not contain any ingredients from its namesake fish or any other fish.
Bungeoppang was first introduced into Korea by the Japanese during the Colonial Korea in the 1930s, although ingredients have changed greatly since then. Now, are also bungeoppang-shaped waffles filled with ice cream and pat (sweetened and boiled red beans or azuki beans). These waffles are usually mass-produced and sold by retailers and dessert cafés, not by open-air food vendors.
Most Bungeoppang that I have tried have been filled with red bean paste, and the taste is delightful. This red bean paste is not my preferred topping for bingsu, as the flavour tastes weird (to me, anyway), but inside a warm Bungeoppang I absolutely love it! With Taiyaki, I have had many more variants, including a chocolate one, and a cream-filled one from Osaka shinkansen station. I wouldn’t want to try to the cheese taiyaki, though…