It’s not unusual for people from Los Angeles to try new and different foods. LA is one of the most culturally diverse cities in the world, with at least 140 distinct races living there. From eateries, shopping malls, entertainment businesses, and business shops – none of which are alike – newcomers will discover a variety of experiences waiting for them.
When it comes to food, Los Angelenos have a wide variety of options. Although the climate has a significant impact on cuisine, cuisines from countries like India and China have found their way into the city. What’s remarkable is that Reunion, LA’s antipode (the opposite end of the earth), is as varied as it is.
According to statistics from the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, there are approximately 70,000 Japanese people living in Los Angeles, making it the city with the most outside of Japan. According to a census done in 2017, Koreans exceed this number, with a total population of over 300,000. The number has risen to almost 350,000, but there
The fish-shape delights were created as a result of the two different cultures. Bungeoppang (or taiyaki) is a pancake-shaped fish filled with red beans that have the texture of a waffle. It’s usually sold in stalls like those for gyeranppang, hotteok, and tteokbokki in Korea.
You’ll find them at any Asian culture fair in Los Angeles. We’ll discuss how it came about and where you can get them locally.
Asian’s Economic and Food Influence in LA
Asian food in Los Angeles and the East Coast has a long history. Despite the fact that Chinese is the most popular Asian cuisine in Los Angeles, other cultures have had an impact from Indian “soup kitchens” to modest stands selling standard Turkish kebabs.
The cuisine of China began to flourish in California following the establishment of Chinese settlements. Knowledge about food, entertainment, and culture was brought by Chinese immigrant laborers to small towns. The arrival of Chinese immigrants would be considered the beginning of Asian immigration. These little communities would eventually grow big enough to attract media attention.
The Japanese counterpart of Chinatown is either called Little Tokyo or J-town. The formation of these communities isn’t based on Japanese immigrant workers coming together but it was inspired by Chinatown. The highest concentration of J-towns is located in northern California, with locations from Berkeley all the way to San Mateo. Koreatowns were similarly inspired.
Asian food has been refined to such a degree that most Asian chefs are heading kitchens and restaurants with Michelin stars. This level of professional work in the kitchen is indicative of a work ethic that gives AAPI groups high levels of annual income. In fact, the number of AAPI immigrants has significant contributions to the US economy, contributing as much as $97.5 billion in taxes. The AAPI’s spending power is valued at $455.6 billion.
Popular Japanese Food Trends In the US
There are over 4000 sushi restaurants in the United States that cater to both Japanese and American customers. Some of these eateries, however, do not provide authentic Japanese cuisine. The rising popularity of Japanese cuisine eventually resulted in the development of the California roll, a hybridized form of sushi popular in the United States today.
Aside from sushi, other famous Japanese food items that rose to popularity in the US include sashimi and teriyaki. Fish cakes are also among the list of popular Japanese foods in the US.
Just like how Turkish ice cream is served, Japanese chefs made cooking a performance art. Customers are served food which is cooked in front of them. The history of cooking as a performance art shares its roots with Japanese tea ceremony. More convenient preparation methods emerged as a result of the popularity of street foods, Taiyaki being one of the types of food served.
Popular Korean Food Trends In the US
Although the exact date of Korean cuisine’s entrance to United States soil is unknown, during the latter half of the nineteenth century, the Joseon dynasty began trading with the Western world. Foreign ambassadors would bring information about other cuisines from Korea’s royal courts. Foreign merchants brought Chinese and Japanese goods with them.
The concept of taiyaki would then be carried to Korea, where it was modified and adapted to local tastes. Street food became popular several years after the 19th century, but Japan’s territorial expansion was primarily responsible for its introduction.
Is Taiyaki Japanese or Korean?
According to the 2011 book Bungeoppang Has a Family Tree, bungeo-ppang is a hybrid of Western waffles and Eastern dumplings. The taiyaki (baked sea bream) that was introduced during Japanese occupation is said to have been the origin of bungeo-ppang. In Korea, bungeo-ppang’s form changed from fish-shaped pastry to carp-shaped bungeo-ppang over time. Despite its brief existence, it became fashionable again in the 1990s as part of South Korea’s retro movement.
There is speculation about how taiyaki came to Japan. Some people say Japanese traders bought them from Korea during the Japanese invasion of the peninsula (1592-1598), while others claim they were given as presents by Japanese ambassadors who traveled back and forth between Korea and Japan between 1899 and 1910. Whatever its origin may be, there are several similarities between taiyaki and omurice (a Western-style Japanese dish made with fried rice wrapped in an omelet). The major differences are that taiyaki uses pancake batter instead of crepes, sweet red bean paste instead of white sauce, and fish-shaped molds.
What is Taiyaki?
Taiyaki is a popular street food cake molded in the form of fish. The name taiyaki is a combination of two words “tai” (red seabream) and “yaki” (meaning baked or cake). The distinct design is taken from the red seabream, a fish that was mainly consumed by the ruling Japanese elite.
Taiyaki has fillings similar to a Belgian waffle. The most commonly used filling is red bean paste (in Korea, this is known as gochujang) made from a red variant of mung bean. Other fillings include chocolate, cheese, custard, or yams.
Taiyaki was invented by updating the shape of imagawayaki. The cook responsible for inventing the concept of taiyaki wanted to appeal to customers by serving it in the shape of an expensive fish that was commonly prepared during special occasions. The red seabream is considered a symbol of luck and prosperity, hence, it’s relative scarcity contributed to its steep price.
Taiyaki gained popularity in the US after the war and spread to neighboring countries as well.
What is Bungeo-ppang?
Shortly after its introduction to Korea, the taiyaki underwent some design changes. Instead of the sea bream shaped, it took the form of a carp. Bunggeo-pang is a popular street food during the winter. The fillings vary from red bean paste to more savory pizza toppings.
Bunggeo-pang didn’t have a solid following after the Japanese colonial period but it gained its popularity back in the 90s during a Korean retro craze.
Where to Find the Best Taiyaki in LA
Taiyaki and bunggeo-pang are fascinating historical traditions, so you should try them. Here are the top locations in Los Angeles to get taiyaki and bunggeo-pang.
400 S Western Ave Los Angeles, CA 90020
Anko, located in Koreatown, makes batches of fresh taiyaki every day. Anko puts shaved ice as the filling, making them a good summer treat as opposed to taiyaki being a winter street food. A single order of taiyaki has four pieces so it should be more than enough for someone not into carbs and sweets. Overall, the taiyaki they serve is filling.
2. Miss Cheese Tea Cafe
238 S Arroyo Pkwy Ste 110 Pasadena, CA 91105
Miss Cheese serves food other than taiyaki – finger food like fries, boba tea, savory popcorn chicken, and banana ice cream sundaes. Miss Cheese serves taiyaki but they only come in three flavors, Nutella, the standard red beans, and custard. If you feel like the taiyaki isn’t enough, you can always have a go at other food items on their list.
3. Deli Manjoo
2825 S Diamond Bar Blvd Diamond Bar, CA 91765
If you’re a texture person, then Deli Manjoo taiyaki is right up your alley. Newcomers might wonder where the taiyaki on their menu is, but the dessert place serves it under the name of Lucky Fish. Customers can choose from pre-made mini taiyakis, or they can wait for the cooks to serve a big taiyaki instead. Their taiyaki has a chewy consistency, so customers can appreciate the regular red bean paste filling instead of going for more modernized versions of taiyaki.
4. Gozen Express
2100 Sawtelle Blvd Los Angeles, CA 90025
Most taiyaki are baked using a waffle maker with a fish mold but Gozen Express makes their taiyaki differently. Instead of putting batter on a hot plate, they fry a preset taiyaki mold with red bean paste. The result is a crispy exterior with a rich and filling red bean paste interior. It’s a little heavy on the stomach so you might want to eat this when you’re really hungry in the afternoon. Pair this with ice cream and it’s guaranteed comfort food.
Gozen Express doesn’t have a brick-and-mortar establishment, and the only way to get a hold of them is via their Instagram page. They roam LA with a food truck.
3760 S Centinela Ave Los Angeles, CA 90066
Japan’s takoyaki empire has finally reached Los Angeles and they’re ready to serve more than fish and squid. Although their taiyaki deviates far from the original taiyaki design, they’re still worth a try. Gindaco’s taiyaki is a croissant covered with caramelized sugar before going into the hot iron plate. It’s a little bit on the dry side but it’s still fish-shaped. Gindaco uses the standard adzuki beans for the fillings.
They have two locations available, one in Centinela Ave in Mar Vista and the other is on Artesia Blvd in Gardena.
6. MuMu Bakery & Cafe
3109 W Olympic Blvd Ste D Los Angeles, CA 90006
MuMu Bakery & Cafe serves the most varieties of taiyaki. You can choose sweet or savory fillings. For sweet taiyaki (or bungeoppang), they have chocolate, nutella, cream cheese, red bean, and rice cake. They also have pizza flavors and various cheese fillings. They also extend that variety into a taiyaki with no fillings. Mumu’s taiyakis are similar to Gindaco in that they’re croissants, and they also sprinkle their taiyakis with Japanese rock sugar, giving it extra texture.
Mumu Bakery Cafe is located on West Olympic Boulevard in Koreatown.
How To Make Taiyaki Yourself
It’s simple to prepare either of the two delights, and if you’re an adventurous baker, here’s a how-to video for you, and, here’s the full recipe with step-by-step instructions from Messy Witchen.