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Japanese waffles? They're fanciful little cakes you make with special pans.

Japanese waffles? They're fanciful little cakes you make with special pans

Fanciful in form, these traditional Japanese pans produce a variety of little cakes. Embossed with crests, molded into fish, or shaped into tiny balls, the cakes seem quite exotic. But in reality they're the Japanese equivalent to the traditional Danish aebleskiver--pancake balls or cakes with a filling. And they're perfect for appetizers or snacks.

Made of cast iron or cast aluminum, the pans have specially shaped wells or cups and are used over direct heat. You add batter (or rice), filling, and more batter (or rice) to seal. The filling can be a traditional Asian blend of sweetened bean paste or seaweed or a Western mix of shrimp and cream cheese or chicken. Shop at Japanese markets for special ingredients or use suggested alternatives.

The pans, which can be found in Japanese hardware and department stores, are priced like any good-quality frying pans. Here we show some typical choices; if you can't find them locally, see the list of mail-order sources given on page 252.

Season new cast-iron pans by brushing cups with salad oil and placing pans on medium-high heat until oil just begins to smoke; let cool. To clean, wash with soapy water. If foods stick, rub pans with salt and a cloth; do not use scouring powders.

Fish-shaped Cakes

(Taiyaki)

1 cup canned sweetened red bean paste or shrimp-cheese filling (recipe follows)

Vegetable oil spray

Pancake batter (recipe follows)

Place closed, hinged taiyaki pan over medium-high heat and turn occasionally until both sides are hot enough for a drop of water to sizzle when sprinkled inside.

Meanwhile, scoop 18 equal portions (about 2 teaspoons each) of bean paste or filling onto a sheet of waxed paper; flatten portions slightly with back of a spoon.

Open pan and lightly coat fish-shaped cups with vegetable oil spray. Into each cup on the side resting on heat, pour 1 tablespoon batter, filling from ends of tails forward.

Place 1 portion of bean paste in center of each fish; top each with 1 tablespoon batter, covering filling completely. Close pan and cook until cakes are golden on bottom (open pan and lift cakes with a skewer to check), 3 to 4 minutes. Turn pan over and cook cakes until golden on opposite side, 3 to 4 minutes more.

Tip cakes out and place in a single layer on a cloth-lined platter; keep them warm while you make remaining cakes. Serve warm. Makes 18 cakes, 6 appetizer or snack servings.

Pancake batter. In a bowl, stir together 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, 1 tablespoon baking powder, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. In another bowl, whisk 1 1/4 cups milk, 1 large egg, and 3 tablespoons melted butter of margarine to blend. Pour milk mixture into flour mixture and whisk until smooth.

Shrimp-cheese filling. In a bowl, beat 1/2 cup (4 oz.) cream cheese with 1 tablespoon lemon juice until smooth. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon dry dill weed and 1/4 pound (2/3 cup) small cooked and shelled shrimp.

Round Cakes

(Tomoeyaki or imagawayaki)

1 cup canned sweetened red bean paste or shrimp-cheese filling (recipe precedes)

Vegetable oil spray

Pancake batter (recipe precedes)

Place tomoeyaki or imagawayaki pan over medium heat until water sizzles when sprinkled inside.

Meanwhile, scoop bean paste or filling into 1-tablespoon portions and lay on a sheet of waxed paper; flatten portions slightly with back of a spoon.

Lightly coat pan cups with vegetable oil spray, then pour 1 1/2 tablespoons batter into each one. Lay 1 portion bean paste on batter in each cup; top each with 1 tablespoon batter, covering filling completely.

Cook until cakes are golden on bottom (lift edges with a bamboo skewer to check), about 3 minutes. Insert skewer into sides of each cake and flip cakes over, using your fingers if necessary to help push cakes neatly back into pan (see picture at right). Cook until cake bottoms are golden, about 2 minutes more.

Tip cooked cakes out of pan and arrange in a single layer on a cloth-lined platter; keep them warm while you make remaining cakes. Serve warm. Makes 14 cakes, 4 or 5 appetizer or snack servings.

Octopus Cakes

(Takoyaki)

Vegetable oil spray

Chewy-dough batter (recipe follows)

Octopus or chicken filling (recipe follows)

Bottled vegetable and fruit sauce (tonkatsu), optional

Powdered prepared seaweed (aonori ko), optional

Prepared slivered pickled ginger (optional)

Place takoyaki pan over medium heat until water sizzles when sprinkled inside.

Lightly coat each cup with vegetable oil spray. Working quickly, fill each cup halfway with chewy-dough batter (about 1/2 tablespoon per cup), then place 1/2 teaspoon filling in center of each. Spoon enough batter (about 1/2 tablespoon more) to cover filling in each cup and to come flush with pan top.

Immediately stick a bamboo skewer into the thin shells formed by heat and gently pull shells halfway up so uncooked batter flows out. Working quickly, continue rotating cakes so batter forms round balls (see picture at top right). If batter sets before the shells completely form around filling, patch by lifting cakes and pouring a little more batter into cup bottoms, placing gaping portions into batter to seal. Continue cooking, rotating cakes frequently until they turn golden, about 6 minutes total.

Tip cakes out of pan and arrange in a single layer on a cloth-lined platter; keep them warm while making remaining cakes. Serve plain; or drizzle each cake with tonkatsu, sprinkle with aonori ko, and top with 1 or 2 slivers of ginger. Makes about 24 cakes, 6 appetizer or snack servings.

Chewy-dough batter. In a bowl, whisk together 3/4 cup water and 2 large eggs. Add 1 cup all-purpose flour and 1/4 teaspoon salt; whisk until smooth.

Octopus or chicken filling. In a bowl, combine 1 tablespoon each prepared slivered pickled ginger and finely chopped green onion, and 2 tablespoons diced cooked octopus, or diced cooked, boned, and skinned chicken.

Rice Cakes

(Onigiri)

Most onigiri pans come with a two-part plastic mold for shaping the rice into cakes to fit the pans. If your pan doesn't come with a plastic mold, you can buy one for about $2.

You can also use the onigiri pans to make filled pancakes following directions for fish-shaped cakes (recipe precedes).

2 cups short-grain white or pearl rice

Water

1/2 teaspoon salt

6 tablespoons moist seasoned seaweed (karashi konbu or sansho konbu) or cooked diced ham

1/2 cup black sesame seed (kuro goma), optional

Vegetable oil spray

Soy sauce, optional

In a 2 1/2- to 3-quart pan, combine rice, 3 cups water, and salt; bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook until water is absorbed, about 20 minutes. Fluff with a fork.

For each cake, place 2 tablespoons hot cooked rice in each plastic mold section with bottom flap; compact the rice by pressing it lightly with fingers moistened in water. Place 1 teaspoon seaweed on top of rice in center of each cake, then cover with 2 more tablespoons rice.

With the pressing unit that fits into mold, push rice down to compress cakes (see top picture, next page). Remove unit, invert mold, and push flaps to release cakes. If desired, pour sesame seed into a small dish and gently press flat sides of each rice cake into seeds. Repeat steps to shape remaining rice into cakes.

Place closed onigiri pan over medium-high heat; turn frequently to heat both sides until water sizzles when sprinkled inside of pan. Open pan and lightly coat cups with vegetable oil spray. Fit shaped rice cakes into matching cups. Close lid and cook cakes until rice on bottom is speckled brown (open pan and lift cakes with a skewer to check), 4 to 5 minutes. Flip pan; cook until cakes are browned on opposite side, 4 to 5 minutes more.

Tip cakes out of pan; place on a cloth-lined platter and keep warm, if desired, while toasting the remaining cakes. Serve warm or at room temperature. Eat plain or add soy sauce to taste. Makes about 18 cakes, 6 to 9 appetizer servings.

Three mail-order sources for pans

If you're unable to find pans in your area, write to one of the following stores:

Anzen Hardware & Supply Co., 220 E. First St., Los Angeles 90012 (taiyaki, takoyaki, and imagawayaki pans).

Soko Hardware Co., 1698 Post St., San Francisco 94115 (onigiri, taiyaki, takoyaki, and tomoeyaki pans).

Uwajimaya Inc., 519 Sixth Ave. S., Seattle 98104 (onigiri and taiyaki pans).

Photo: Swallowing a goldfish? Fish-shaped cakes with shrimp-cheese or bean paste filling make intriguing appetizers

Photo: Japanese pans come in a variety of shapes. Prices can range widely, but cast iron is generally more expensive than cast aluminum

Photo: Clerk in Japanese hardware store shows two octopus cake pans. One in front has wooden handle and octopus design on rim

Photo: Fish-shaped cakes. At May's Coffee Shop in San Francisco's Japan Center, cook bakes taiyaki in professional-scale pans to make four at a time

Photo: Round cakes. Use bamboo skewer to turn tomoeyaki; push cakes into place with fingers. Note cakes' embossed design

Photo: Octopus cakes. To let batter flow out and form round cakes, rotate takoyaki frequently while balls are still soft

Photo: Firmly press rice into cups of plastic mold with mold insert; this makes compact cakes that fit into special metal pan

Photo: Place cakes in pan and close lid. Toast rice cakes on both sides; flip pan to cook evenly
COPYRIGHT 1986 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1986 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:recipes
Publication:Sunset
Date:May 1, 1986
Words:1591
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