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Imagawayaki is a type of sandwich made of dough, and filled with bean paste or other ingredients. This food is common in Japan, and also in Taiwan. Although sweet bean paste is the traditional filling ingredient, other fillings are also used to make these small, round snacks.
In many culinary communities, imagawayaki is most commonly known as a dessert item. Besides sweet bean paste, imagawayaki sandwiches can be filled with items like fruit jellies, custards or creams. Many other varieties of this item are savory dishes.
When making these treats as savories, a cook can add a wide range of filling ingredients. For example, a vegetarian version could include spinach and cheese or some other combination. Cooks sometimes add curried meat or vegetables as a filling.
Part of the unique nature of imagawayaki is how these small pies are made. Many restaurants that generate many of these small waffle type foods use a grill with a large mold that has many circular concavities. These provide for the circular form of the food.
To begin, cooks will commonly pour a little of the raw, liquid dough into the bottoms of the circular molds. When this has cooked a bit, and hardened, they will add the filling on top, in the center, careful not to let the filling touch the sides of the mold. The food may continue to cook to make sure that the dough surface that is against the grill gets browned and hardens well.
After a time, a cook will typically use a small knife or other tool to flip the cooked part of the food onto other adjacent molds where more liquid dough is cooking. As the newer batch of dough circles bakes, they adhere to the rest of the pie above, and form the entire imagawayaki. Cooks who are experienced can sometimes flip these little sandwich items extremely quickly, and they may do this for an audience as part of an advanced “open kitchen” presentation.
In addition to the skill that it takes to cook these treats, there is also considerable challenge in maintaining the imagawayaki grill. Staffers must keep the small molds clean, to prevent undesirable and unsanitary buildup in them. Overall, though it may not take a lot of time to make imagawayaki, it does take considerable work, and constant attention.