The first time I tried takoyaki was from a street food stall in Japan several years ago. I remember while approaching the food vendor, my initial thoughts were, other than its smaller size, these look like ebleskiver (small, round Danish pancakes about 2 inches in diameter). As for appearances, that’s where the similarities end. Instead of tasting a sweet, fluffy, pancake texture, takoyaki is less dense, crispier on the outside, and has a soft chewy center.
Known mainly as octopus balls outside of Japan, takoyaki is a savory, grilled, Japanese dumpling. “Tako” means octopus, and “yaki” is a term translating to food that’s grilled, broiled or fried. This tasty snack started as street food in the early 1930’s in Osaka, located in the Kansai region of Japan. Its popularity has expanded into most restaurants, food courts, grocery markets, and 24-hour stores. The shell of a takoyaki mainly consists of eggs, flour, and dashi broth. The inside traditionally contains a small piece of octopus sprinkled with scallions, beni shoga (red pickled ginger), tenkasu (tempura scraps), and sakura ebi (ground dried shrimp).
In Japan, it’s a communal experience. If people aren’t buying these delectables, they’re cooking them at home. Takoyaki at home involves friends and family gathered around a table cooking and eating together. Everyone pitches in from making the batter to adding the ingredients for the fillings. There are frozen takoyaki available in Asian markets, but it’s always best eaten fresh and hot – and more fun with friends and family.