Japan: Takoyaki

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Takoyaki is a ball-shaped Japanese snack that is made of a wheat flour-based batter and cooked in a special moulded pan. Main ingredients are minced or diced octopus (tako), tempura scraps (tenkasu), pickled ginger, and green onion. Takoyaki are brushed with takoyaki sauce (similar to Worcestershire sauce) and mayonnaise, and then sprinkled with green laver (aonori) and shavings of dried bonito. There are many variations to the takoyaki recipe, for example, ponzu (soy sauce with dashi and citrus vinegar), goma-dare (sesame-and-vinegar sauce) or vinegared dashi.

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Yaki is derived from “yaku” which is one of the cooking methods in Japanese cuisine, meaning “to fry or grill”, and can be found in the names of other Japanese cuisine items such as okonomiyaki and ikayaki (another famous Osakan dishes).

History

Takoyaki was first popularized in Osaka, where a street vendor named Tomekichi Endo is credited with its invention in 1935. Takoyaki was inspired by akashiyaki, a small round dumpling from the city of Akashi in Hyōgo Prefecture made of an egg-rich batter and octopus. Takoyaki was initially popular in the Kansai region, and later spread to the Kantō region and other areas of Japan. Takoyaki is associated with yatai street food stalls, and there are many well-established takoyaki specialty restaurants, particularly in the Kansai region. Takoyaki is now sold at commercial outlets, such as supermarkets and 24-hour convenience stores.

Takoyaki via Reddit

Takoyaki pan

A takoyaki pan (takoyaki-ki) or—much more rarely—takoyaki-nabe is typically a griddle made of cast iron with half-spherical moulds. The heavy iron evenly heats the takoyaki, which are turned with a pick during the cooking process to pull the uncooked batter to the base of the rounded cavity. Commercial gas-fueled takoyaki cookers are used at Japanese festivals or by street vendors. For home use, electric versions resemble a hotplate; stovetop versions are also available.

5 Ingredients for Authentic Takoyaki

There are so many variations of takoyaki throughout Japan.  For example, the original Osaka-style does not include any cabbage, but many regional variations (Kyoto, Kobe, Nagoya, Tokyo areas) do.

Here are ingredients for classic takoyaki recipe.

1. Dashi-flavored batter

Very simple.  It’s a mixture of Japanese stock Dashi, all-purpose flour, baking powder, eggs, salt, and soy sauce.  If you don’t want to make the batter from scratch, you can find takoyaki mix in Japanese grocery stores or Amazon.

2. Octopus

Takoyaki via Voyagin

You can purchased cooked (boiled) octopus/tako in Japanese grocery stores.  If you are going to make this snack for a big party, you can purchase a whole cooked octopus at online sashimi store, FishforSushi.com.  We used the whole octopus for different dishes, including sashimi, carpaccio, octopus salad (takosu), and of course takoyaki.

3. Beni shoga (pickled red ginger)

Small bits of beni shoga, or red pickled ginger, give a nice pop on the color of takoyaki and a little spicy, pungent kick to dish.

4. Green onion

The batter is yellow, octopus and beni shoga are red… and now you need green color to make the dish look more appetizing (and delicious)!

5. Tenkasu (Tempura scraps)

Tempura scraps is used for hot or cold Tanuki Udon Noodles and Okonomiyaki (even Hiroshima-style).  Tenkasu adds more rich and umami flavors, crispness (from extra oil from tempura scraps), creaminess inside takoyaki balls.

How about Sauce?

This dish is usually served with Worcestershire sauce-like “takoyaki sauce” (store-bought package or homemade recipe) and some squirt of Japanese mayo.  Then it’s topped with sprinkle of Aonori (dried green seaweed) and katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes).

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